People's Democracy

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


No. 16

April 18, 2010

Make April 27 Hartal a Success


Prakash Karat


THIRTEEN secular opposition parties --- the CPI(M), CPI, AIFB, RSP, AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal, TDP, Lok Janashakti Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal (Secular), Samajwadi Party and INLD --- have called for a countrywide hartal on April 27 against the ever-increasing price rise of food and other essential commodities. This is a significant step up in the movement against price rise which has been going on for the past six months. This all-India protest action has been timed with the taking up of the demands for grants in the union budget and the adoption of the finance bill in the Lok Sabha which is expected in the last week of April. The 13 parties have decided to coordinate their steps so that cut motions and amendments to the budget and the finance bill can be taken up with regard to the increase in the taxes on crude oil, petrol and diesel and the increase in fertiliser prices. 




While the opposition to these measures will be mounted in parliament, the all-India hartal will be conducted to demand that the government rescind the increase in the customs duty on crude oil, the excise duties on petrol and diesel and the increase in the prices of urea and other fertilisers as part of the measures to curb price rise.

The Left parties had organised a big rally on March 12 on the issue of price rise and other immediate demands. This rally had given a call for a massive picketing and court arrest programme on April 8. Around 25 lakh people participated in the April 8 programme all over the country. The response to the calls by the Left parties shows the anger and discontent among the ordinary people who are suffering from the relentless price rise of all goods of daily consumption, particularly food. Other opposition parties have also been conducting anti-price rise agitations in various states during the past few months. 

But the UPA government has remained unmoved by the burden of price rise imposed on the people. The very fact that petrol and diesel prices have gone up by Rs 3 per litre as a result of the union budget shows the callousness of the Congress led government.

All that the central government did was to convene a meeting of chief ministers in February on price rise. That meeting concluded with a decision to form a committee of ten chief ministers to work out steps to curb price rise. Two months later, on April 8, this committee of chief ministers was convened with the prime minister and other union ministers also attending it. The speeches of the prime minister and the finance minister show utter complacency with regard to price rise. The bureaucratic outcome of the meeting was the formation of three sub-committees.  

The union information and broadcasting minister declared that prices of food items have declined. However, on that very day, when the Left parties were conducting their Jail Bharo movement, the latest figures for food inflation were announced. For the week ending March 27, the food inflation had risen to 17.7 per cent --- a one percentage point increase over the previous week. The central government doggedly refuses to take the necessary steps required to curb price rise, including the ban on futures trading on food items. Nor is the government prepared to release the foodgrains, which are lying in the FCI godowns, of 474.65 lakh tonnes which are well above the 200 lakh tonnes of the buffer stock. In a mockery of efforts to curb price rise, the central government has offered to provide additional allocations of rice at Rs 15 per kg to the states, knowing fully well that this would make it unviable for distribution through the public distribution system. 

The decision of the secular opposition parties to move cut motions on the budget has drawn a predictable response from the Congress party. Its spokesmen have accused the secular opposition of joining hands with the communal BJP. The people are not going to be taken in by such a charge. Price rise is the most serious issue affecting the people. The Left and secular opposition parties will be failing in their duty if they did not mount opposition to the wrong policies of the government which have contributed to inflation and price rise. Within parliament, the issue will not be who is backing the cut motions, but whether the government is willing to roll back the tax hikes on petrol and diesel.




As far as the CPI(M) is concerned, we wish to reiterate that the fight within parliament is not some design to topple the government. It is part of the political struggle to isolate the ruling party and to carry forward the fight to reverse the retrograde policies. 

There is no other way but to intensify the struggle against price rise to compel the government to take the necessary steps to curb price rise and to strengthen the PDS. The CPI(M), along with the Left parties, has been active in developing the movement against price rise, for  strengthening the PDS and the food security ever since it held a  national convention on these issues on August 2009. The Left parties had organized state level conventions and state level rallies up to January 2010. This was followed by the March 12 rally and the impressive mass participation in the April 8 court arrest programme. 

The entire party should gear itself up to making the April 27 hartal a big success. The momentum built up by the April 8 programme should be carried forward. In the short time available, the party must go amongst the people with the message of the hartal and jointly work with the Left and secular opposition parties to make the April 27 protest a loud and clear warning to the Congress led government.