People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 51

December 20, 2009

Shimla Rally Demands Universal PDS, Subsidised Food Items


ON December 11, the Himachal Pradesh state unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) organised a huge rally at Shimla, the state capital, against the incessant rise in prices. People from four districts, namely Shimla, Solan, Sirmour and Kinnaur, participated in the rally.

Having gathered at the Panchayat Bhavan, the rallyists came out in the form of a procession, which marched through the Ram Bazar, the Lower Bazar of Shimla town, and culminated in a public meeting in the Subzi Mandi ground. Nilotpal Basu (former MP and member, Central Secretariat of the CPI-M), Rakesh Singha (former MLA from Shimla and state secretary of the CPI-M) and other leaders of the party led the procession.

The public meeting following the rally was presided over by Vishwanath, a member of the CPI(M) state committee and Tikender, a member of the state secretariat of the CPI(M), conducted the proceedings.

Nilotpal Basu, the main speaker at the public meeting, vehemently castigated the government policies as responsible for the incessant price rise. This has reached alarming proportions. More than 84 crore people, according to the NSSO sample survey in the country, are forced to live on a petty income of Rs 20 per day. How can such a section of the society sustain in such an acrimonious environment, he queried. He said the major reason for the price rise is the policy of the central government to futures trading in essential food items. He further took to task the central government for its proposal on the food security act. Whereas the CPI(M) has welcomed such an act, the government�s proposal about it is full of basic defects whereby a large section of the people would be deprived of cheap ration. At present, he said, the government spends a subsidy of nearly Rs 55,000 crore on the PDS. If it doubles the amount, then every household in the country can easily get at least 35 kg of food grains at the rate of Rs 2 per kilogram. But the government is not prepared to do so, while it has provided a whooping subsidy to just the two Reliance brothers in the form of tax concessions worth Rs 43,000 crore.

Falma Chauhan, state committee member of the CPI(M), attacked the state government for hoodwinking the women of the state. She said the government boasts of providing three holidays on Bhaiya Dooj, Karva Chauth and Raksha Bandhan to the women employees and thus flaunts its pro-women credentials, but it refuses to check the price rise, which hits women the most. She further castigated the state government for ruining the health services in the state. The Rogi Kalyan Samitis have become instruments of fleecing the poor patients. This actually is a step towards wholesale privatisation of the health services in the state, she remarked.

Rakesh Singha said there is a close relationship between the incessant price rises and the squeezing of the public distribution system. In the name of a �targeted� PDS, the government is depriving a big section of the common people of subsidised food forcing them to go to the open market for ration. This, he said, brings the private players to the commodity market who then jack up the prices. Also, he said, the peasants who used to grow the food grains are being encouraged to shift to other crops. This too has forced a large section of the masses to depend upon the market to run their households. He further stated that there have been three successive crop failures in the state. Just because of severe drought in the state, the peasantry in Himachal Pradesh has suffered a loss of nearly Rs 1200 crore, but the state or the central government has not given them an iota of help or compensated.

Sanjay Chauhan, Shimla district secretary of the CPI(M), lambasted the state government for having substantially reduced the allocation of foodgrains to the common people. In the last five years the prices of food items has jumped by 45 per cent, which has severely affected the life of the common people.

Jagat Ram, local committee secretary of the CPI(M), also spoke at the public meeting. 

A resolution on further strengthening of the movement was read out by Tikender. The resolution, unanimously adopted, included a programme based on district, block and lower level dharnas in the month of December in front of godowns of the civil supplies department and private wholesalers for not releasing the adequate quantity of ration to the people.

The foremost demands of the rally included an exclusion of the food items from the ambit of the futures trading and commodity market, ensure supply of 20 kg of atta, 15 kg of rice, two kg of edible oil, three kg of pulses and 700 gm per person of sugar in addition to one kg of salt per month through the subsidised ration shops. The rally also demanded stringent actions against hoarding and black marketing, making the PDS universal and a stop to the process of �targeting� the PDS. (INN)