(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 27, 2011
LDF Manifesto: Alternative Model of Development
K K Ragesh
THE Left Democratic Front (LDF) of Kerala released its election manifesto on March 15, pledging to the people of Kerala to reinforce the ongoing welfare schemes in and comprehensive development of the state. The manifesto describes how the LDF government realised the promises it had made during the last assembly election and, on the foundation of its credible track record, offers a future course of action.
In fact, no one can deny that the LDF has fulfilled all the promises it had made five years back. It promised to increase the welfare pensions from Rs 110 to 200 a month, and hiked them to Rs 400. It talked of providing rice at a fair price through ration shops, and distributed ration at Rs 2 per kilo and that too to all. The 2006 manifesto talked of a rural employment guarantee scheme, and extended it to urban areas as well. It implemented an income guarantee scheme in traditional sectors also. The EMS Total Housing Scheme and the MN Laksham veedu renovation project aim to provide housing to all. All house loans of the poor were written off. Toilet facility and electricity have been ensured in all houses in the state.
The 2006 LDF manifesto offered to increase the procurement price of paddy and did increase it from Rs 7 to Rs 14 --- a 100 per cent increase --- while the central government’s paddy procurement price is only Rs 10 per kilo. Debt relief was a significant promise of the LDF manifesto in 2006. The LDF government formed a debt relief commission to provide debt relief to the farmers and that too much before the central government’s declaration in this regard. The LDF government further extended the debt relief to the SC- ST sections and to fishing workers.
The UDF (2001-06) government was keen to privatise the state PSUs, propagating that public sector undertaking were making heavy losses and thus burdening the exchequer. In fact it was the UDF government policies that led to this pathetic situation when the PSUs made a loss of Rs 96 crore. In the LDF regime, however, all the PSUs became sound and made a profit of Rs 300 crore since 2006. The 2006 election manifesto of the LDF had just committed to protect the PSUs but in after five years it delivered much more than that. It made all the PSUs profitable and created 8 new PSUs, while the recent budget offered to set up 5 more PSUs. The IT sector too made remarkable progress in this period. In all, while inviting private capital, the LDF government has been vigilant to protect the state’s interests.
During the UDF regime, land for tribals was a crucial question but it did not distribute any land among the landless tribals; rather their agitations were suppressed. The LDF government, as it had assured in 2006, distributed land among 3000 tribal people. Kerala became the first state to implement the Forest Rights Act. Its infrastructure development including road development measures are widely appreciated and now it has approved a comprehensive road development programme with an outlay of Rs 40,000 crore. Unlike the UDF policy to privatise health and education, public spending in education and health was increased manifold as the LDF manifesto had promised.
The LDF manifesto gave importance to environmental questions and the LDF government introduced the concept of green budgeting. To the reserve forest area have been added another 50,000 acres of land. It also introduced gender budgeting and gave due care to all sections including women and children in the planning process. The 2006 manifesto promised to withdraw the ban on recruitment in government services imposed by the UDF government. While the UDF government eliminated 13,600 posts in government departments, the LDF government created 31,000 new posts therein. The ban on recruitment was withdrawn and 1,75,000 appointments were made during this period.
The LDF promise to ensure higher economic growth than the national average was accomplished in this period and that too in the midst of the global economic crisis that marred the earnings of the people of Kerala working abroad. The national growth rate during the last year was 8.6 percent; in Kerala it was 9.6 percent.
Thus the 2011 manifesto vividly depicts how the LDF government strove to fulfil the promises its 2006 manifesto had made and how it delivered more than its promises. While doing so, it exposes the UDF rhetoric and betrayal by comparing the experiences of both the LDF and the UDF periods. In order to strengthen the ongoing developmental programmes and welfare schemes, continuation of the LDF government is extremely important. On the foundation of its past work, the 2011 manifesto underlines how this new model of alternative development can be strengthened and welfare schemes widened to uplift the downtrodden sections of society. It lays emphasis on comprehensive development of the state in all spheres. The gist of the manifesto’s overall approach may be summarised in seven points.
1) The manifesto assures to make Kerala the fastest growing state in the country. To this aim, fast growth in agriculture is vital and the manifesto gives it utmost importance. It also visualises to build up various other sectors that suit Kerala, including IT, tourism, electronics, and to develop value adding agro industries.
2) The manifesto promises to augment infrastructure, including a comprehensive road development project worth Rs 40,000 crore and to develop a high speed railway line, national waterway traffic, new seaports, airports and gas pipeline in a time bound manner. While inviting private investment to the state, the manifesto asserts commitment to strengthen the public sector as the accelerator of development.
3) It aims to enhance employment opportunities through economic growth. Thus 25 lakh new employment opportunities will be ensured in various non-agricultural sectors --- 10 lakh in small scale sector, 10 lakh in service sector, 5 lakh in the IT, BT and organised sectors --- besides another 50,000 in government sector.
4) The neo-liberal framework of the central government is escalating inequalities and poverty. While targeting for a higher rate of economic growth through its alternative policies, the LDF pledges to ensure social security to all the common people, striving to fulfil the ongoing schemes to ensure home for all and to guarantee food, water and power in all houses. The question of the remaining lands will be solved. Sufficient compensation and comprehensive rehabilitation will be ensured while acquiring land for public purposes.
5) Public health and education will be strengthened. To augment work efficiency and skill in various enterprises, the VHSC, polytechnics and ITIs will be modernised. Investments in higher education will increase to make Kerala a knowledge society.
6) The manifesto aims to make Kerala a women friendly state. Numerous projects will be introduced to bring the vulnerable sections to the mainstream.
7) The fiscal policy of the government will be development oriented; revenue deficit will be reduced without curtailing the welfare schemes. Numerous innovative projects to augment infrastructure will be designed and necessary administrative reforms initiated to accomplish them. Police reforms will be implemented on the basis of the new Act. Immediate reforms will be made in the Secretariat and the revenue department.
It is for these aims that the manifesto appeals for the support of all people to build a rapidly growing Kerala with ensured welfare and social justice. It also asserts commitment to uphold and safeguard the secular values and ethos, and avows to eradicate corruption from public life.
CRADLE TO GRAVE
The manifesto assures welfare and life security to all people of Kerala from cradle to grave. The government had already declared one month maternity leave with salary in the unorganised sector, and this will be extended to three months in five years. The government will deposit Rs 10,000 against every newborn child, that will mature after 14 years. All school children will be ensured free education, books, midday meal and uniforms. All old-age and other welfare pensions will be increased from Rs 400 to 1,000.
The EMS Total Housing Scheme will soon be completed to ensure a home for everyone. Total electricity programme has already been completed in 100 assembly constituencies; it will be completed in the remaining 40 constituencies within six months. Drinking water connection will be guaranteed to houses within five years.
The central government has recognised only 11.5 lakhs of households in Kerala as BPL families. But the LDF government will include all the poor sections --- agricultural labourers, fishing workers, SC/STs, workers in traditional industries etc --- in the BPL list. Ration shops will be recognised as the franchisee outlets of the Civil Supplies Corporation and on every ration card food items worth Rs 300 will be given for Rs 150 only. Unlike the central policy to cut back the kerosene allotment, the LDF manifesto promises to provide a subsidy of Rs 20 per litre of kerosene.
Apart from various other measures for the welfare of ST sections. The LDF assures agricultural land for them. The SC/ST welfare schemes will cover the converted Christians too. A new department will be set up for the development of backward sections. Gender budgeting will be strengthened and Rs 7,500 crore allocated for various projects where women are stakeholders. Universal health care, including free health care for the poor, will be ensured.
While envisaging and implementing numerous welfare measures, the manifesto gives due importance to various projects for generating more employment including new-generation jobs. The manifesto thus projects to increase the area of IT parks fivefold. Its vision is to set up biotechnology parks and to begin new courses in areas such as nanotechnology.
Pre-school education for all in the relevant age group, 100 percent internet connectivity in all schools, Right to Service Act, Inter-State Migrant Workers’ Act etc. are some of the other assurances the manifesto gives.
The LDF manifesto vividly shows the way for the state’s overall development, with the marginalised and needy sections as its focus of concern. It envisages economic progress of the state through various means. While using private capital, it ensures government intervention and asserts the role of the PSUs in the development process. It stands against sabotaging welfare schemes and PDS by curtailing government expenses. Rather, it envisages innovative methods for resource mobilisation and added income generation. The Kerala Model based on the LDF government’s alternative policy thus needs to be further strengthened in accordance with the vision its manifesto puts forward.