(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 13, 2011
Achievements of the LDF Govt
V S Achuthanandan
THE present LDF government is the fifth Left-led government in the history of Kerala state. All these governments have pursued a policy different from the one pursued by governments led by Congress, BJP and other bourgeois parties at central and state levels. The main feature of the Left policy is that it is people oriented. All the Left-led governments have implemented measures by which the quality of life of the downtrodden and marginalised people in Kerala has risen to the standard of some of the developed countries in the world.
The achievements of the LDF government in Kerala have been hailed from various quarters. Last year the news magazine India Today had adjudged Kerala as the best ruled state in India. This year news channel IBN7 has selected Kerala for an award for its achievements in the fields of education, health services and social welfare.
The Left in Kerala has a tradition spanning over five decades of implementing the pro-people Left agenda. Through various measures, including land reforms, removing many of the vestiges of the feudal system that existed earlier, democratisation of many activities of the State, upholding and extending rights and freedom of workers, peasants, students, youth, women and other sections of people, ensuring social justice for the deprived classes and introducing decentralisation at various levels of government, the Left-led governments in Kerala developed a better quality of life for people at a very low per capita expenditure, which attracted the attention of the whole world. Scholars from developed countries gave it a pet name, Kerala Model. The challenge before the Left in Kerala has always been to preserve and enrich this model in spite of the pro-rich policies of the central government and the continuous interventions of UDF governments led by the Congress to distort and undermine these pro-people achievements.
When the present LDF government assumed office, the state was, literally, in shambles. During the previous UDF rule, Kerala, which is historically famous for religious amity, witnessed a number of communal clashes and killings. A series of sexual atrocities on women were committed. Various dastardly acts had become a familiar sight in the state. Now, as per central government records, Kerala is the most peaceful state with minimum number of crimes. Communal strife, atrocities on women and different types of crimes have been contained during the LDF rule.
There was a slump in agricultural production in the state, particularly of commercial crops, due to the neglect of the central government during both the NDA and UPA rule. The prices also fell leading to a large number of suicides by peasants. The central government had done nothing to prevent further loss of life. It was at this juncture that the LDF government assumed office. It immediately appointed a debt commission to study the farmers' problem and announced a series of steps in support of families of the farmers who committed suicide and those who were in the grip of debt. These steps infused confidence among the peasantry so that the trend of suicide came to a stop in Kerala within a few months of LDF assuming power. The achievement will become evident when one compares it with states like Maharashtra that are still witnessing continued peasant suicides in spite of thousands of crores of rupees spent in the name of Vidarbha package and other schemes.
The LDF government decided to give priority to intervention in the primary sector recognising the fact that the largest section of deprived people belonged to this sector. It gave substantial budgetary support to this sector which has infused confidence among the people to seriously engage in agricultural operations, dairying and fisheries. The LDF government has increased the support price of paddy from Rs 7 per kg in early 2006 to Rs 14 now. This has resulted in the increase of paddy cultivation area by 60,000 acres and paddy production by about 1.25 lakh tonnes. Production of vegetables, milk, fish, eggs and meat also recorded a marked increase as also the income of those engaged in this sector. Cooperative banks have thrived under the patronage of LDF government and through them the government have arranged loans with zero or low interest to the various producers in the primary sector.
Women have gained most under the LDF government. They had been the worst affected by policies of globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation pursued by the UPA and UDF governments. In order to get them employed and able to have their own earnings, the LDF government organised them into self help groups (SHGs) which are tied together at panchayath, district and state levels through an organisation called Kudumbasree, which at present has a membership of 37 lakh women organised in about two lakh SHGs. They are engaged in production of paddy, vegetables, milk, meat, in the processing of various agricultural products, in many small scale industrial units and in rendering a number of services.
The majority of workers in Kerala are employed in traditional industries like coir, cashew, handloom, bamboo etc. Because of the utter neglect of these sections by the central government and the previous UDF government, the number of days of work and their wages got dwindled in the course of time. The LDF government intervened in their favour by substantially increasing budget allotments and ensuring that workers got benefit of increase in production and price rise.
During the UDF rule, most of the public sector industries were sustaining big losses. Citing this as a reason, that government tried to close down many of them and even sell them. But the united resistance of workers, irrespective of union affiliations, prevented the PSUs sale. The LDF government on assuming office took effective steps with the cooperation of workers and experts with the result that now almost all of them are making profits. This imparted confidence and courage to the government to start nine new industrial concerns in public sector at a time when both the central and other state governments are handing over their public sector units to the private sector.
The LDF government is implementing a major project of providing funds to all BPL families to have their own house. This project is named after E M S Namboodiripad, the first chief minister of Kerala. In the previous two five year plans, about 8.5 lakh houses were provided in this manner mainly under the auspices of local bodies. Now, those who do not have any land of their own are being provided with land to build their own house. Most of the beneficiaries belong to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. If they were to get a house under Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) scheme, they would have had to wait for decades. Also, it is not possible to put up even a hut with the money given by the central government under IAY scheme. In order to complete the scheme within the next year, local bodies have taken loans amounting to Rs 3000 crore from cooperative banks on state government guarantee.
The LDF government has given priority to SCs, STs and minorities in giving assistance of various types. This is based on the policy of social justice adopted by the LDF for the past so many decades. The government had declared that one acre of land would be given to every landless tribal family. This assurance is being implemented now. Also, tens of thousands of landless dalit families have been given small pieces of land. In the matter of accessibility of education, health and so many basic necessities of life in the modern world, Kerala has been able to extend them to almost all of these deprived and dispossessed sections. That is the basis of Kerala having better social justice as compared to many other states.
During the last three matriculation examinations, the pass percentage in Kerala has been more than 90 per cent. This shows that most of the children from backward sections are successfully clearing the examination. This is a welcome change when compared to previous years of UDF regime. Though SCs, STs and some sections of minorities are still lagging behind in various ways, their lot has substantially improved from what it was earlier.
Another area where Kerala is at a higher pedestal as compared to other states is with regard to the public distribution system. This has been acknowledged by the central government itself. Kerala has historically been a deficit state in the matter of food articles. For this reason only, around 45 years ago, the central government allowed Kerala to introduce statutory rationing. Also, most of the articles of daily use come to Kerala from other states. This often gives a chance to traders to fleece the people. The LDF governments over the years have developed a network of civil supplies stores and cooperative consumer stores which make wholesale purchases and distribute the essential commodities at reasonable prices. In 2010, around 35 lakh families belonging to poor and marginalised sections were provided ration rice at Rs 2 per kilogram. Now, the government has decided to extend this arrangement to all families in Kerala. Because of these measures, which cost the government around Rs 1000 crore annually at present, the rate of price rise of essential commodities in Kerala is the lowest. This is acknowledged by the central government.
The public health system in Kerala has a huge network of allopathy, ayurveda and homeopathy hospitals, in every panchayat in the form of PHCs, at the block level in the form of CHCs, and as general hospitals at important centers and as district hospitals in every district headquarter. New buildings and modern equipments have been made available to many of these facilities as also the necessary staff. A Medicine Corporation has been established to ensure proper availability of medicines in hospitals. The health insurance scheme introduced by the central government is implemented in the state in a manner which makes it more patient and family friendly.
For the past few years, there has been no power cut or load shedding in Kerala. This has been achieved by reducing transmission losses substantially and making people introduce CF lamps at their homes and workplaces. New projects to produce energy from a large number of mini and micro units as also from gas-based units are in the offing. Kerala has one of the lowest power tariff rates in the country.
Kerala is confronted with various kinds of environmental issues given the fact that it is having a network of backwaters, 41 rivers, and a large area of marshy and wet lands, along with being highly populated. The previous UDF government had, in the name of development, allowed widespread annihilation of forests, wetlands and privatisation of public property including water bodies. The central government often invokes environment and forest laws to prevent implementation of projects that are highly essential for the development of the state, while at the same time giving sanction to application of hazardous chemicals in agriculture as pesticides and in industry as raw material. In the northern district of Kasargode, a dangerous chemical, Endosulfan, has been sprayed on cashew plantations. Now after so many years of spraying, it has been found to have caused various kinds of disabilities and diseases to young and old. While the central government still adopts a callous attitude towards the problem, the LDF government is giving health care and assistance of different kinds to make the lives of affected people more bearable.
Two questions are to be normally expected: How do you find resources for all these expenditures? Is it enough for a government to bestow attention on socially and economically backward, differently abled and those stricken with diseases?
When the LDF took office in 2006, the annual income of Kerala government was about Rs 10,000 crore. By management of resource mobilisation, this has increased over the years crossing Rs 20,000 crore this year. The dictum followed by LDF is – mobilise more resources and meet higher expenses. This is in contrast to the dictum of UDF – to collect less taxes and spend less. Less expenditure during their tenure meant less benefits and less support to the poorer sections of people. The LDF government has cleared all outstanding arrears of welfare pensions that were due to various sections of deprived people. It has widened the benefits to the deprived by ensuring that there were enough resources to meet such demands.
In Kerala, more than 50 per cent of people belong to middle class sections. Their youth, both girls and boys, are educated. They aspire for better jobs. To ensure them jobs, new avenues have to be created. Due to environmental problems and paucity of industrial raw materials, certain kinds of industry are not acceptable to Kerala. IT, tourism, biotechnology etc are some of the fields more suited. In the IT sector, projects for two major IT parks at Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi and a number of smaller parks in different districts are at different stages of implementation. Already they offer more than 20,000 jobs. Once completed fully, they are expected to offer more than 2,00,000 job opportunities of different kinds. Also the tourism industry has great potential for creating umpteen job opportunities as Kerala is a favourite tourist destination of people from far and near. Necessary groundwork for this has already been carried out. The recent advances in the field of biotechnology has opened up wide areas of development and employment for a state like Kerala. It has rich deposits of rare metals like Titanium, Thorium etc. Schemes to use them for producing high value added products are being prepared, which in future will open up a number of opportunities to the educated sections of the society.
All this shows that the path of development envisaged by the LDF in Kerala offer opportunities of growth not only to forward sections of the society, as is normally done by promoters of globalisation, but to the deprived sections as well. This trajectory of growth will ensure all round development of the country. Also it will prevent confrontation and conflict between various sections of society, usually sponsored by the ruling classes on the basis of religion, caste, ethnicity, language etc.