(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
August 22, 2010
False Claims; Real Burdens
THE prime minister has
customary address to the nation from the historic Red Fort on the 63rd
anniversary of the country’s independence.
Much is being made of the fact that this seventh speech of Dr
Singh is the third highest in the history of independent
The prime minister said:
building a new
Noble declaration of
but far removed from the reality?
Through these columns, we had repeatedly shown that there are
The prime minister
declared that his
government “wants a food safety net in which no citizen of ours would
hungry”. In order to achieve this, he says, “We need to work harder, so
can increase the agricultural growth rate to 4 per cent per annum.” In
situation where even after six decades of independence, our agriculture
dependent upon the vagaries of the monsoon, there is no reference to
public investments in agriculture.
During the last two decades of neo-liberal reforms, public
agriculture has been less than 2 per cent of our GDP annually. Unless
reversed, it is impossible to create an
Though there are customary references to `difficulties’ caused by `high inflation’, nothing concrete in terms of providing relief to the people has been spelt out. On the contrary, there is an ironic justification of this price rise as being the consequence of providing higher prices to farmers. “One affect of providing higher prices to farmers is that food prices in the open market also increase.” Claiming credit for enhancing the minimum support price for wheat to Rs 1,100 per quintal and that for paddy to Rs 1,000 per quintal, the prime minister ascribes this as the main cause for the continuous hike in prices of all essential commodities. If the farmer is getting Rs 11 paise per kilo of wheat, he is buying atta paying atleast Rs 14 per kilo in the open market. Likewise, a farmer getting Rs 10 per kilo of paddy is buying rice paying atleast Rs 20 a kilo in the open market. Clearly, Mr Prime Minister, this phenomenal hike in the prices of all essential commodities is not due to higher MSP but due to phenomenal profits that the middlemen are making in the trade of essential commodities. Yet, this government refuses to ban the speculative futures/forward trading in essential commodities.
Further, the prime minister justifies the hike in the prices of petroleum products stating that the country cannot afford the increase in `subsidy’ on these products. Repeatedly in the past, in these columns, we have exposed the gigantic fraud that is being committed on the people by claiming subsidies when none actually exist if high taxes on import of these products are removed and prices are calculated according to domestic costs of production and not on parity with international prices. These arguments are not being repeated. Sustaining this fraud on the people, the prime minister justifies the hike in the petroleum product prices stating that “if this had not been done, it would not have been possible for our budget to bear the burden of subsidy and our programme for education, health and employment of the poor would have been adversely affected”.
A not so strange, yet a vicarious justification. Imposing greater burdens on the people, in the name of providing them better livelihood is the classic expression of deceit of neo-liberalism. If the resources required for improving the country’s social infrastructure are the concern, then the prime minister must answer why his government has foregone huge amounts of legitimate revenue in the last two years. According to this year’s budget papers, the revenue foregone in 2008-09 was Rs 4,14,099 crores. In 2009-10, this figure was 5,02,299 crores, i.e., together amounting to over 9 lakh 16 thousand crores. Even if we were to deduct the concessions given in excise and customs duties (the so-called `stimulus’ to combat global recession), the direct tax concessions to the corporate sector was Rs 66,901 crores in 2008-09 and Rs 79,554 crores in 2009-10. The concessions given to high-end personal income tax payers was Rs 37,570 crores and Rs 40,929 crores respectively. These concessions to the rich, in these two years, total to nearly rupees 2,25,000 crores. Many, many times higher than the so-called `subsidies’ for the poor.
While burdening the poor
prices, these are the concessions that this government is doling out to
rich. Unless the current neo-liberal trajectory is jettisoned and a
framework that economically empowers the whole of
The people’s resolve on
Day must, therefore, be to redouble our efforts through popular
to force the government to change its policy direction in order to