(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
July 31, 2011
CPI(M)’S Memo on Development Issues
A V Balu
A delegation of the CPI(M) consisting of G Ramakrishnan, state secretary, and two members of the state secretariat of the Party, A Soundararajan, leader of the Party in the state legislative assembly and K Balakrishnan, chief whip, met the chief minister of Tamilnadu J Jayalalithaa on July 21 and presented a memorandum prepared by the Party on some key issues of development pertaining to Tamilnadu. Jayalalithaa assured the delegation that her government will carefully study the memorandum and initiate appropriate actions.
The memorandum submitted by the Party to the chief minister of Tamilnadu is a comprehensive document, though naturally not exhaustive. It was developed by the Party through a process of preparation of notes on each of the major issues, discussion on these notes and the finalisation of the document by the state secretariat. It deals with a number of key issues pertaining to the state including the following:
· The current state of the economy
· The crisis in agriculture in the state
· Industrial development
· Issues facing the scheduled castes and tribes
· Gender Issues
· Policies in the fields of art and culture
· Government support to science and technology
· Democratic rights of the working people
· Promotion of sports and physical culture
· Problems of the disabled
· Assistance to fisher folk
· Implementation of anti-poverty programmes
Drawing attention to the harmful and iniquitous consequences of neoliberal policies followed by the central government and the DMK government in Tamilnadu during its term in office from 2006 to 2011, the memorandum points out that the much hyped GDP growth rates of 7 to 8 per cent per annum had not made a dent on unemployment nor reduced the incidence of poverty significantly. Moreover, raging inflation was seriously hurting the lives of working people. Noting that the annual rate of growth of NSDP in Tamilnadu during the DMK regime was lower at 6 per cent than the national rate, the memorandum highlighted the fact that agriculture in the state was in a crisis. There was in fact a decline in the real value of output from agriculture and allied activities between 2005-06 and 2009-10. Despite tall talk of attracting industrial investments and promoting growth, the DMK period in power saw an industrial growth rate of only 6 per cent and an even lower 4.2 per cent in manufacturing. Infrastructure suffered, with electricity, gas and water recording a deep and disastrous decline in levels of output. The agrarian and rural economic crisis led to mass migration to urban areas in search of employment. Most migrants are engaged in jobs paying very low wages and offering no social security or legal entitlements of any kind.
Against the background of agricultural stagnation, increasing unemployment and rapid inflation engendered by the policies of the UPA at the centre and the DMK government in the state, the memorandum put forward specific suggestions for the revival of the agrarian economy and for providing some relief to the people from the consequences of neoliberal policies. It proposed that the agricultural sector needed immediate attention and top priority. The government should substantially increase investment in agriculture and infrastructure related to it. Improvement of soil quality is a priority. To this end, bio fertilisers and organic farming methods may be encouraged, along with ensuring availability of chemical fertilisers with balanced nutrient composition. Irrigation should be expanded, paying particular attention to the maintenance of tanks and local farm ponds. Agricultural extension services should be revived and strengthened, cooperative credit provision enhanced, and timely procurement of farm produce at remunerative prices ensured. There must be a serious effort to identify all government waste land for distribution to the landless as well as strict implementation of land ceiling laws. Loopholes in existing legislations pertaining to land ceilings may be identified and plugged through a new law that would have as its main objective the distribution of land to the landless. Marketing and storage facilities for farm produce should be strengthened. The memorandum demanded minimum procurement prices of Rs 1500 per quintal of paddy and Rs 3000 per ton of sugarcane. Farmers should get uninterrupted power supply.
Sanctioning of new electrical connections for farm operations was an urgent need. Modernisation of transformers and the supply and transmission infrastructure for delivery of electric power to farms should receive priority. The memorandum stressed that all pro-farmer measures should especially benefit the small and marginal farmers. It proposed the enactment of a new law to regulate land use, so as to protect farmers and agricultural land from the real estate mafia. The problems faced by tenants of temple lands should be addressed. Out of 2.5 million poor persons who had applied for patta for the land where they are in possession for a long time, very few have been given patta. This process needs to be quickened, up-scaled and completed in a time-bound manner.
The problems faced by
labourers need urgent attention. Comprehensive land reforms are needed
provide them with land. House site pattas have to be provided to all of
MNREGS needs to be implemented effectively, ensuring 100 days of
minimum daily wages of at least Rs 119 as announced by the government
On industry, the memorandum demands that a comprehensive white paper on all the MoUs signed between the DMK government and various corporate entities in the five years of DMK rule, bringing out the costs and benefits, employment created, tax revenue foregone, district wise distribution of investments and other important aspects, should be prepared by the government and placed for discussion in the legislative assembly and among the wider public.
A comprehensive statement of industrial policy may be drafted by the government and placed in public domain for wide discussion. Such a policy should prioritise employment, environmental protection and industrial development throughout the state. Particular attention and encouragement must be provided to micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSME) and their problems addressed. Priority to MSMEs in government procurement, setting up of industrial estates in rural areas, provision of space at reasonable rates for MSMEs in the SIPCOT industrial estates and uninterrupted power supply to tiny and small units are some of the immediate measures recommended in the memorandum.
The memorandum, while welcoming both public and private investment that would lead to employment generation and industrial growth, emphasised that the protection of the democratic and trade union rights of workers and ensuring their welfare were very important. Guaranteeing the right of workers to from unions, legislation to make progressive changes in the provisions relating to recognition of unions, making sure that MNCs and other corporate entities in SEZs obey the laws of the land, time scale of pay for a wide range of workers and employees in government currently receiving consolidated pay, effective functioning of welfare boards for unorganised workers and right to engage in various forms of protest and democratic action in the city of Chennai and in other large cities were some of the demands put forward in the memorandum.
ON EDUCATION &
The memorandum noted that education was a basic human right and that the state had the obligation to ensure education for all. This can only be done by increased public investment in education by way of provision of quality infrastructure and large expansion in the number of state-run educational institutions from primary to higher education. The private sector in education has to be strongly socially regulated to ensure quality of education and reasonable fees and other conditions of education. The memorandum made a number of specific recommendations in this regard, pertaining to infrastructure, student-teacher ratios, democratic rights of students, scholarships and hostel facilities for SC, ST and OBC students. It demanded strict social regulation of private schools and colleges and an end to the daylight robbery in the name of special and other fees and capitation charges that private educational managements at all levels of education indulge in. It called upon the government to oppose the slew of bills on higher education being brought forward by the UPA II government-such as the Foreign Institutions Regulation Bill-all of which not only commercialise higher education and open it up to unscrupulous foreign players but intrude seriously into the domain of state governments. It demanded that higher education should be taken out of the concurrent list and brought back to the state list.
The memorandum demanded the filling up of two lakh job vacancies in the state government and the implementation of an Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme. It made concrete suggestions on how to increase employment opportunities including the rapid implementation of the Sethusamudram project.
Although the state of Tamilnadu has relatively better health indicators-such as infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate, institutional deliveries-compared to many other states, it is a long way behind neighbouring Kerala. The state is also undergoing a health transition where non- communicable diseases have become important in the disease profile. The memorandum stressed the need to address these issues, taking advantage of some provisions of the NRHM. It also demanded that the recent centralisation of immunisation to the PHC level be reversed and the task entrusted to the health sub centre to ensure easy access to the rural poor. It welcomed the state government’s decision to scrap the earlier health insurance scheme that privileged a private insurance company and demanded that the scheme be entrusted to a public sector company dealing with health insurance. It also called upon the government to prioritise preventive health, fill up the vacancies of health personnel such as health inspectors, start a medical college in every district and strengthen the Tamilnadu Medical Services Corporation.
The memorandum drew attention to the decline in child sex ratios in some districts of the state between 2001 and 2011 as seen from the provisional figures of the 2011 census. It sought the strictest enforcement of the laws against sex selection practices indulged in by many doctors and so-called ‘genetic counseling’ centres. It also put forward specific demand pertaining to the issue of violence against women, wage discrimination, gender budgeting, regulation of microfinance institutions and sexual harassment.
SCS & STS
Pointing out that, despite the laws of the land, dalits continue to face various forms of discrimination including the horrendous practice of untouchability in Tamilnadu, the memorandum called upon the government to sensitise all revenue and police officials in this regard. It wanted the government to ensure an end to discrimination in all forms against dalits through stern and uncompromising action, including strict implementation of PCR Act. All democratic and civil rights of dalits should be ensured through appropriate state action. Panchami lands, assigned to dalits during colonial rule, should be restored to them. The reservation for the Arundhathiyars, a social group belonging to the scheduled castes, in education and employment, won after a militant struggle by Arundhathiyar orgnisations and CPI(M), must be effectively implemented, and the reservation proportion increased in accordance with their share in the SC population.
The tribal forests right act (TFRA) remains largely unimplemented in the state. The memorandum sought the implementation of TFRA and simplification of procedures for the issuance of community certificates to identified tribal groups.
Highlighting the importance of environmental protection, the memorandum called for legislation to ban throw away plastics with thickness below 50 microns. It called for district level ‘state of the environment’ reports to be prepared. It demanded strict implementation of the laws and rules in respect of Municipal Solid Wastes Management, including segregation at source. The memorandum highlighted the need for strict implementation of the coastal zone regulations, promotion of ‘green tourism’ and priority to mass transport systems to reduce atmospheric pollution and conserve energy. It called for proper conduct of public hearings on new projects.
The memorandum also took up issues pertaining to the disabled, the problems of livelihood of fisher folk, greater decentralisation and empowerment of elected local bodies, issues of sports and physical culture and so on. It made specific recommendations in respect of each of these domains. The memorandum also elaborated the Party’s views on policies pertaining to the fields of art and culture and on science and technology.
NORMS OF TRANSPARENCY
Having thus put forward the Party’s proposals on both the immediate problems of livelihood facing the working people of Tamilnadu and the economic and social development of the state in the long run, the memorandum concluded with an appeal to the AIADMK government to function in a transparent and democratic manner and implement economic and social programmes that will make the government worthy of people’s trust.
The Party will take up the issues set out in the memorandum in the coming weeks and months and campaign among the people to present the Party’s proposals on some important issues facing the state.