(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 13, 2010
FOUR YEARS OF LDF GOVERNMENT IN KERALA
Alternative Policies Bring Amazing Achievements
K K Ragesh
THE government of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala has now completed four years of its tenure with profuse achievements. During this period the government not only fulfilled most of the promises that the LDF made during the 2006 assembly elections; it in fact delivered more than what it had assured. The advantages are evident in all realms of governance. It includes the measures taken to strengthen the public distribution system (PDS) and curb price rise and also to arrest the farmers’ suicide which was very common during the UDF regime. The LDF government has extensively upped its intervention in the health sector, taken steps to strengthen the public sector units and the initiative to set up several industrial units. There have been qualitative changes in the school and higher education, with efforts to curb the commercialisation of education. Imaginative fiscal management and revenue accumulation and wide-ranging welfare pension schemes for disadvantaged sections are among other achievements during the last four years.
MOVES TO ARREST
During the UDF regime farmer’s suicide was very common, including many episodes of suicide by whole families of farmers. In Wayanad district alone, more than 500 farmers committed suicide due to the mounting debt and devastation of crops. While media were filled up with the reports of sorrowful stories of farmers’ suicide day by day, the UDF government had a mere spectator’s role to play. Immediately after it assumed office, the LDF government intervened in the matter, set up a debt relief commission which was the first of its kind in the country and launched a debt relief scheme. The government took over the agricultural debts of the families of the farmers who had committed suicide. These measures instilled in them confidence and put a halt to farmers’ suicide in the state. While farmers’ suicides are continuing in some other parts of the country, not a single incident has been reported in Kerala after this intervention.
Also, the UDF policy to slash subsidy for agriculture sector had made the farmers abandon agriculture; consequently vast areas of agricultural land were lying fallow. Under LDF, farmers returned to agriculture and started cultivating paddy in 15000 hectares of such land. This amazing achievement came through duel forms of intervention, i.e. by encouraging agriculture through a variety of supporting programmes and by ensuring people’s involvement.
The PDS in Kerala had been ideal for the rest of the country. But it deteriorated severely due to the central government’s policy to slash food subsidy and the UDF’s insensitive stance. The LDF government allocated Rs 500 crore for giving rice and wheat at Rs 2 per kilo to 35 lakh families. Numerous outlets of the Civil Supplies Corporation and Consumer Fed were opened and essential commodities supplied at highly subsidised price. Compared to other states, the rate of price rise is significantly lesser in Kerala and the prices of many essential commodities are lower than in many of the producing states. This achievement was possible by intervention through thousands of outlets like the Maveli stores, government super markets and hyper markets, people’s bazaars, Triveni stores, Neeti stores, Neeti medical stores etc. in order to cover up the central government’s insensitive attitude towards the menace of price rise, its minister had to advise other states to learn from Kerala about the measures to curb price rise.
THE PUBLIC SECTOR
Four years back, many public sector units (PSUs) and cottage industries were at the verge of closure. The UDF government was out to implement the neo-liberal policies and presided over privatisation or dismantling of the PSUs in the state. It made conscious efforts to create the perception that public sector is inefficient and burdens the society by incurring losses. During the UDF regime, out of 37 PSUs, 25 units were made non-profitable with a total liability of Rs 69.46 crore; consequently the UDF government decided to dismantle and sell out such loss-making (!) units.
Hoever, during the last four years, the LDF government’s consistent efforts have turned 32 such PSUs profitable with the rest five showing steady improvement. The balance sheet of the PSUs no longer shows losses; they have together made a profit of 239.75 crore. The government has opened the sick units and made efforts to modernise all the PSUs in the state. Diversification of cottage industries with innovative methods and intervention to strengthen small scale industries were widely appreciated. What is more, in the age of neo-liberal policies of dismantling the PSUs, the LDF government has initiated steps to set up eight new PSUs.
IN EDUCATION & HEALTH
In the realm of education, alternative LDF policies have harvested significant achievements. The neo-liberal policies of the UDF government had deteriorated public education; it had also outrageously decided to close down 2000 schools in the state under the pretext that they were uneconomic. On the one hand, there was mushrooming of unaided schools and, on the other hand, government schools and aided schools became unattractive. Consequently, entire general education was at stake in the state. There were numerous government schools in the state which scored zero pass percentage in SSLC examinations. But the LDF government provided sufficient infrastructure facilities in schools and boldly reoriented the structure and content of school education by ensuring the involvement of the PTAs, local bodies etc. As a result, uneconomic schools are now not seen in the state. Government and aided schools including the zero pass schools are now showing about 90 per cent and above results in SSLC examinations. Earlier, very few students from government schools were able to get through the entrance test for professional courses; now more than 50 per cent of them get through these tests.
Declining excellence in higher education was a big challenge before the LDF government. It set up the State Higher Education Council and undertook several reforms in higher education on the basis of its recommendation. This brought about a qualitative change in higher education. While the UDF government pursued the policy of commercialisation of education, the LDF government, even after a court verdict in favour of education traders, took several successful steps to curb marketing and to ensure social justice in education. Its efforts, including the total reversal of UDF’s neo-liberal agenda in education, resulted in qualitative change in education.
The LDF government had to undertake a huge task of rejuvenating the entire health sector in Kerala. The state had a widespread and successful public health system which was compared even with developed countries. But the UDF government devastated the health sector with its anti-people policies. Currently, however, the health sector scenario in Kerala has absolutely changed thanks to the firm effort and alternative policies the LDF government executed. Government hospitals and medical colleges have acquired a new face, with an end to private practice by government doctors and enhanced infrastructure in government hospitals. Unlike the UDF regime, sufficient doctors were appointed and proper arrangements made to ensure the availability of medicines. Many hospitals were upgraded and the entire health system was modernised.
The Kerala model of
decentralisation was widely appreciated and the People’s Plan campaign
people’s real participation in planning and execution. With the help of
rightwing media, reactionary forces unleashed blatant attacks against
initiatives in order to sabotage the People’s Plan. The UDF government
to kill the People’s Plan. Under the LDF government, the second phase
Peoples' Plan was started with emphasis on productive sectors,
agriculture. A total housing plan (
The LDF government has initiated or strengthened several social welfare measures including welfare pension schemes and wide range welfare fund schemes for all workers, including those in the unorganised sectors. These have no comparison. The UDF government was reluctant to pay even the agricultural workers’ pension at a very meagre rate of Rs 110. The LDF government is not only distributing all such pensions regularly, including the arrears accumulated during the UDF government; it has also increased the pension amount to Rs 300.
In terms of law and
order situation, Kerala ranks first. Last year national media like the
The LDF government lifted the ban on recruitment imposed by the UDF and directed various department heads to report vacancies from time to time to the PSC to ensure timely appointments in the government services.
In power sector, Kerala’s target is to ensure electricity for all and Palakkad district has become the first completely electrified district in the country.
In order to prevent illegal land encroachment, effective steps were taken. On the other hand, lakhs of landless poor including tribal people were given land.
Fiscal management in the state has attained new heights after introduction of innovate methods of resources mobilisation. Tax revenue has increased considerably with the sealing of the loopholes. Previous episodes of treasury ban have become an old story now. All dues are cleared in time and no developmental initiatives are stopped because of scarcity of resources. It is thus that the LDF government has been able to widen the scope of welfare schemes so extensively, and that too at a time of worldwide economic crisis! It is to be noted here that Kerala highly depends on remittances coming from the Gulf countries.
The LDF government’s performance during the last four years is indeed a model of the Left alternative within the parameters of the limited powers in the era of globalisation and neo-liberalism. While the neo-liberal policies are harming the PSUs, public health, education, agriculture, food security and social welfare schemes by slashing subsidies, the LDF government in Kerala is executing alternative policies to ensure people’s welfare and to strengthen the state’s overall economic situation.
The UDF, backed by reactionary media in the state, has been trying all sorts of dubious means and creating numerous controversies to cast doubt over the superb successes of the LDF government. Such media organisations do not hesitate even to repeatedly broadcast lies and fabricate stories so as to hide the government’s remarkable achievements. In the midst of all such efforts to conceal the facts, one wonders whether the truth can be hidden forever.