People's Democracy

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


No. 06

February 07, 2010


Left Convention Demands

All Party Meet on Price Rise Issue


THE CPI(M) and CPI Andhra Pradesh state committees have asked the state government to urgently hold an all party meeting on the burning issue of price rise that is adversely affecting the lives of millions of people. Holding the central and state governments totally responsible for the galloping price rise, they have demanded concrete steps from the governments to bring the prices down.

A state-level convention protesting the rising prices and governments' heaping of burdens on people was organised by the state committees of CPI(M) and CPI in Sundarayya Vignana Kendram, Hyderabad on January 24, 2010. This was as part of the nationwide campaign launched by the two parties on the issue of price rise. Given the disturbed atmosphere in the state due to the divisive movements, holding of this convention was delayed. The convention was jointly presided over by CPI(M) central committee member and MP, P Madhu, and CPI state secretariat member K Ramakrishna. The draft resolution of the convention was moved by Ramakrishna.

CPI(M) state secretary B V Raghavulu in his address told how the living conditions of people are being affected due to the price rise. People are forced to cut down sharply on their intake of food due to unaffordability. Most are also shifting their children from private schools to government schools not only because of saving money but also because of availability of mid-day meal that will reduce their food burden. The prices of essential commodities in the state have risen by 35 per cent in the last one year (2008-09) while in the last two years it has been a whopping 80 per cent. He contrasted this with the average increase in salaries of around 5 per cent.

He debunked the government defence of terming the price rise a worldwide phenomenon. Commodity prices are on the decline worldwide while it is only in India except for steel and cement, all other prices are rising or have not come down. Raghavulu then listed the government policies that are actually causing this price rise. Its stubborn refusal to ban futures trading despite clear evidence of its speculation leading to price hikes; its encouragement of cash crops in place of foodgrains leading to food insecurity; its promotion of corporate farming were cited. The central government's insensitivity to the issue can also be gauged from the fact that recently the Reserve Bank of India has made some changes in banking policy whereby the amount of loan granted by banks on the basis of reserves of foodgrains has increased. The civil supplies ministry has also raised the limit of holding foodgrains reserves from 5 per cent to 10 per cent. It means direct encouragement of hoarding at a time when the requirement is quite the opposite in order to bring down the prices.

When the situation is so bad, the government is on the one hand cutting down whatever meagre relief is available through public distribution system, and on the other heaping more burdens on the people in the form of user charges on roads, water etc. In the name of weeding out of bogus ration cards, there is large scale denial of ration for people. Even applications for new cards are not being accepted citing this reason! The implementation of NREGA which is providing some relief to people is also very tardy. Out of the amount of around Rs 6000 crores allotted for the state, the government has spent only Rs 3500 crore in the ten months of the financial year. How it is going to spend the remaining Rs 2500 crore in just two months must be clarified, he demanded. He alleged large scale corruption in implementation of the scheme. He called on the government to urgently hold an all party meeting to discuss about ways to deal with this serious issue of price rise. He called for state wide campaign movement and mobilisation for the March 12 'Chalo Parliament' against price rise.

CPI state secretary K Narayana in his speech said that this scale of price rise must be the highest since Independence and faulted the government's tardy response. He said the Congress-led UPA government's encouragement to future and forward trading is nothing but taking further the path of NDA government which had in the first place amended the Essential Commodities Act. The unbridled entry of big corporations in the retail sector must also be playing a part in the price rise.

As for the state government, the CPI leader charged the state government of being in cahoots with hoarders and black-marketeers because despite giving concrete evidence about hoarding and black-marketing to the ministers concerned, no action is being taken. He asked the government to learn from Kerala LDF government's implementation of PDS. He also found fault with the government for diverting the attention of people through Telangana and integrated state tussle, and on the sly increasing all kinds of taxes and levies. He called for mass struggles on this issue, including breaking of godowns hoarding essential commodities.