People's Democracy

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


No. 01

January 02, 2011



Unleash More, Mightier Struggles in 2011!


PEOPLE’S DEMOCRACY wishes its readers a very Happy New Year.


Unfortunately, these greetings come with our deep sympathies with the people who are groaning under the relentless economic burdens being mounted on them. The continuous rise in the prices of all essential commodities since the return to government of the UPA has grievously eroded the living standards of the vast mass of our people. In a situation where 77 per cent of our population barely survives at subsistence levels, on Rs 20 or less in a day, this wave of cruel rises in the prices is clearly pushing many more into the conditions of dire poverty. 


The year 2010 began with abnormally high prices of sugar at over Rs 50 a kg and tur dal at nearly Rs 100 a kg, apart from all other items of daily consumption becoming costlier. Now the year ends with the prices of onions shooting up to over Rs 70 a kg in almost all metros. This has had a cascading effect on the prices of other vegetables and edibles. The government’s argument that this is due to a mismatch between supply and demand is, to say the least, far from being convincing. In Delhi, the onion supply increased by over 60 per cent since 2008, yet the wholesale prices have jumped by over 300 per cent. As with sugar last year, the export of onions was liberalised this year despite indications that this could create shortages and consequently price escalations. In fact, incentives were provided to such exports. India’s onion exports have increased from 7.8 lakh metric tonnes in 2005-06 to nearly 19 lakh metric tonnes in 2009-10. The government has now banned these exports following the public uproar over this price rise. It has now allowed onion imports without any duties, i.e., it is subsidising these imports, to control their prices. Incentives for exports and subsidies for imports clearly provide a bonanza of profits for the same trading companies.  As noted in these columns last week, the cumulative value of trade in agricultural commodities from April 1 to November 30 this year was Rs 8,36,605.53 crore. In the corresponding period last year, this was Rs 7,66,133.46 crore. Such a sharp rise clearly indicates that there are super profits to be made through speculative trading. Yet, the government refuses to ban or suspend such speculative trading in essential commodities. Does this not suggest yet another scam at the expense of the people’s livelihood? 


Speaking about scams, 2010 has been a landmark year in independent India’s history. The mother of all scams – the 2G spectrum scam – came along with scams connected with illegal mining, land allocations, IPL cricket tournament, the Commonwealth Games, Adarsh housing society scam, etc, etc. The 2G spectrum scam alone was estimated by the CAG to have cost the exchequer more than Rs 1.76 lakh crore. These lakhs of crores of rupees, that are being looted through such large-scale corruption, are depriving our people of a better livelihood standard. If the government could collect these legitimate revenues rather than allowing them to be siphoned off, and spend them on social sector schemes, that would have positively contributed to enhancing the livelihood levels of our people – the aam admi. 


This UPA-II government is, however, displaying a callous lack of concern on this score, raising strong and legitimate suspicions of its complicity in permitting such a massive loot of our resources. Its obdurate refusal to accept the demand of the entire opposition in parliament to constitute a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) into the 2G spectrum scam has led to the unprecedented ‘wasted’ winter session of parliament. After the session ended sine die, the prime minister announced that he had nothing to hide and that he was willing to face the parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC). If this very same statement was made in parliament at the very outset of the winter session, may be things would have been different. Further, if the prime minister is willing to appear before the PAC, then why not before a JPC?  Both the PAC and the JPC are, after all, joint parliamentary committees. The former, however, is confined to examine, by definition, the accounts only. 


What is required in the present instance, however, is to evolve a set of new regulations, and if necessary laws, to ensure that such massive manipulations of our system permitting colossal loots are prevented in the future. This would be the central agenda of the JPC. Recollect that it was only after the JPC recommendations on the Harshad Mehta stock market scam that regulations strengthening our financial sector operations were brought into effect. 


All these apart, this year also stands out as one which saw a serious attack on the parliament and the institutions of parliamentary democracy. Apart from the virtual annulling of the winter session of parliament, the functioning of central government agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation, Central Vigilance Commission etc have also come under clout. As we go to press, there are reports that raids have been conducted by some of these agencies on the prime suspects in the 2G and CWG scams. Raids after the lapse of such a long time are bound to yield very little other than to serve as a public relations exercise for the government. 


All these developments have only strengthened the direction of drift of this UPA-II government further. This, in turn, is feeding speculation of political uncertainties in the year to come. Our experience this year shows that if a government has to function effectively, it is not only a question of numbers for a majority in Lok Sabha; to a far greater extent it is the question of a clear agenda based on a vision of improving the quality of life of our people and, thus, creating a better India. On this score, this government is found to be singularly wanting despite the fact that it has been rubbing shoulders at the ‘high table’ with the G-20, or despite the propaganda associated with having the leaders of all P-5 countries paying state visits to India. 


These developments define the agenda for our people in the year to come. Unless strong popular pressure is mounted on the government through popular struggles, the desire of building a better India cannot be achieved. We, as a people and as a country, have, in us, the potential to scale greater heights --- both in economic development and social equity. This, however, can be only achieved if the government policies are based on a vision of creating a better India for our people and in preventing the loot of our country’s resources. The government must be made to do so.


Greetings for mightier struggles in 2011 to create a better India for our people!