(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 30, 2011
International Congress on Kerala in New Decade
ORGANISED by the AKG Centre for Research and Studies, an International Congress on Kerala Studies endeavoured to grasp the various developmental questions the state of Kerala confronts today. The participants in the congress, including academicians as well as social and political activists, deliberated on various issues and thus contributed to moulding some general perceptions and practical solutions for the sake of the state’s further progress and overall development. The congress arrived at certain general perceptions and delineated comprehensive programmes and projects for the coming decade. Though it is the Communist Party of India (Marxist) that runs the AKG Centre for Research and Studies, the congress took note not only of the Left view but also of the opinions coming from various kinds of political activists and academics.
It may be recalled that the first International Congress on Kerala Studies was organised under the leadership of late Comrade E M S Namboodiripad, former general secretary of the CPI(M) and one who had been the chief minister of Kerala twice.
As for the projects delineated and proposals made by such congresses for the development of the state, it is true that they cannot be fully implemented with the limited powers of a state government. The communists cannot afford to harbinger the illusion that all the problems of the people can be resolved through governmental action in a bourgeois-landlord framework. At the same time, they do not adhere to the pessimist view that nothing is possible till the fulfilment of the people’s democratic revolution. It is with this communist perception that since 1957 the communist led governments in Kerala have sought to demonstrate how a Left government can rush some relief to the people by using the limited powers of a state government in the bourgeois-landlord currently prevailing in India. The present government of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) has also established this fact.
In Kerala, the communist led governments have always strove to lead the state on the path of development and prosperity. At the same time, the Congress led rightist governments in Kerala always adopted a reactionary approach and thus put obstacles to the development of the state. It is an established fact that the first communist government in Kerala, formed in 1957, laid the basis for an overall development of the state. Before the central government dismissed in 1959 that communist government, led by Comrade E M S Namboodiripad, its initiatives included the Land Reforms Bill, the Education Bill, a democratic police policy, efforts to strengthen the public health system, social welfare schemes, and projects to develop backward regions, among others. All these initiatives constituted what has been widely acclaimed as the “Kerala Model of Development.” This resulted in far-reaching and significant changes in the Kerala society. Consequently, the state came to have universal education, a wide-ranging healthcare system, various social security schemes, minimum wages for the workers etc. Subsequently, the communist led government of 1967 too pursued these policies relentlessly and undertook numerous reforms in the next two and a half years before the central government dismissed it. That government, the second under Comrade EMS, reinforced the Land Reforms Act, and took initiatives to strengthen the decentralisation of power and democratise the education system. The enactments related to decentralisation of powers and agrarian reforms were some of the significant achievements of that period.
Coming to power in 1980, a third CPI(M) led government not only strengthened the policy interventions of the earlier Left governments but also forged ahead with various new welfare schemes and further intervened in the matter of food security.
Formed in 1987, the LDF government laid emphasis on ensuring the people’s participation in various government programmes. In addition to numerous welfare measures, a massive literacy drive was launched during that period, which accomplished total literacy in the state. All such achievements in Kerala became possible due to the interventions of the communist led governments in the state. On its part, the CPI(M) and the LDF launched numerous agitations and movements to realise various demands of the people and also to safeguard all such achievements.
All such interventions have had a positive reflection in the life and of the people of Kerala. It was thus that an economically backward state, which Kerala has been, compared favourably with other states, even the more advanced ones, in the matters of above-average living condition, health and sanitation, education and literacy, drinking water and housing, etc, with a more balanced redistribution of the state domestic product (SDP) and income. The universalisation of the education system, creation of a wide ranging healthcare facilities, ensured minimum wages, land for the landless, elimination of the evil legacies of caste oppression and many other things became due to relentless interventions of the CPI(M) and LDF.
ISSUES TO BE
However, it is true that the state could not attain economic growth in the same way as it made tremendous stride in the social sector. Numerous other questions have also come to fore, including the sluggish state of affairs in the industrial and agricultural sectors. The quality of education and health services and the issue of unemployment among the educated youth also need to be addressed as vital and significant issues. This is why the CPI(M) has been making zealous efforts to address these developmental questions.
In accordance with this understanding, the party initiated efforts to mobilise all such sections as are interested in the development of Kerala, and thus set off a broad-based movement with this objective. It was as part of it that the first International Congress on Kerala Studies was organised in 1994 under the guidance of Comrade EMS. The congress put forward the view that, cutting across political lines, we have to rally all sections of the society on the question of development. In fact, it was not for the first time that the Communist Party had suggested such a perception in regard to Kerala. Long back, in 1956, a document of the united party had stressed this point, which Comrade EMS himself had described as a stride towards a new epoch. Contrary to what many people assume, it is not an apolitical exercise. The right-wing politics aims to divide the people in different camps. But the communists aspire to unite all sections of the people on their common demands and pave the ground for people’s upsurge beyond the caste and communal divides. This very realisation forms the basis for organising such programmes.
The first international congress arrived at a common understanding on certain issues. It led to wide acceptance of the need to augment production and productivity in the industrial as well as agricultural sectors. The congress arrived at a general perception about eradication of poverty that exists among certain sections and about the significance of enhancing women’s participation in the process of development. The congress also underlined the significance of decentralisation of powers and recognised the need to further forge ahead the people’s participation in the process of development.
Formed in 1998, the CPI(M) led LDF government endeavoured to put into practice the perceptions of the first international congress. Thus it launched a People’s Plan campaign to strengthen the process of democratic decentralisation. As part of the People’s Plan campaign, many efforts were made to boost both the industrial and agricultural sectors. At the same time, it gave utmost importance to the newer areas like IT and BT. Many projects were also launched to utilise the tourism potential. Also, the government took steps to strengthen the health and education sectors, reinforced many social welfare schemes and also introduced new ones. However, what is significant to note is that the LDF government has been making all-out efforts to fulfil the aspirations of the people amid the economic crisis created by the neo-liberal policies of the central government, which have been threatening to undo all such gains.
That frequent government changes in the state are not beneficial to the potential progress of the state is clear, for instance, from the experience of the period 2001-06 when the government of the Congress led United Democratic Front (UDF) did all it could do to undo the various achievements one after another. In that period, the CPI(M) had to launch massive movements against the UDF government’s policies and practices in order to save the earlier achievements and forge further ahead. While doing so, the party had initiated a discussion on what should be the alternative policies to meet the new challenges. Thus was organised the second International Congress that discussed the issue at hand on the basis of an approach paper on development. On the basis of the discussions in the second congress on Kerala studies, the LDF has successfully come up with a development perspective which found wide appreciation from all sections of the people. It resulted in the historic victory of the LDF in the last assembly elections.
The present LDF government attaches greatest significance to meeting the basic needs of the people. For instance, the LDF government is making efforts to ensure home for all the homeless, full electricity supply and drinking water facility for all. The government is also intervening to strengthen the industrial as well as agricultural sectors and to make the social security measures more effective. While revamping the existing public sector units while combating the neo-liberal policies, the LDF government has commenced new public sector units, setting a model for the rest of the country. It is now giving importance to analysing the experiences of the alternative development initiatives and to formulating the future course of action through the process of debate and discussion. The recent, third International Congress on Kerala Studies was also organised with this objective in view.
As said, the CPI(M) does not harbinger an illusion that one can resolve all the developmental questions through a state government within the present social order. The party is aware of the limitations of the existing federal structure. That is the reason the party has always stood for democratic centre-state relations. At the same time, it cannot subscribe the rhetoric that a revolutionary party has nothing to do with the present bourgeois-landlord system or run a state government in it. Whiling rallying the people for a change in the social order, the CPI(M) intervenes to ensure as much relief to the people as possible through its alternative policies. It visualises the questions of Kerala’s development with the same perception.