People's Democracy

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


No. 05

January 29, 2012



Intensify Struggles for Basic Rights



India, that is Bharat, completes 62 years of being a Republic. 


On a similar occasion two years ago, drawing from the wisdom of ancient civilisations, including India, where the completion of 60 years – shasti purti – signifies the beginning of a new life, we had articulated the desire of the overwhelming majority of our people for the creation of a better India. 


Unfortunately, for this vast majority of the people of India, these two years have seen not merely the continuation but the worsening of the living conditions.  The relentless rise in the prices of all essential commodities continuously eats into the very vitals of a healthy livelihood.  The continued widening of economic inequalities has, apart from generating a pattern of exclusive growth, added to the miseries of the people.  It is a different matter if the living standards of all the people were rising along with rising inequalities.  On the contrary, the reality is that this widening hiatus between the two Indias - India and Bharat - is based on the enrichment of the rich and the impoverishment of the poor. 


In these columns, during the last three weeks, we had detailed the growing conditions of misery of the vast mass of our people.  The continued state of ill-health of our people was ironically summed up by the prime minister himself when he released a report on the status of malnutrition in the country by saying that this “is a national shame”.  Yet, nothing substantial is being done about it. Worse is the attitude to allow the matters to remain without any intervention by the government.  Health and education are increasingly going beyond the reach of the common Indian. The spending on public health continues to remain less than one per cent of our GDP.  The mushrooming of private health centres are designed only to cater to the rich.


Likewise education has been thoroughly privatised and commercialised.  There are widespread reports of the closure of government primary schools. Despite the government accepted target of spending at least 6 per cent of our GDP on education, we are still nowhere near the half mark.  This is the sorry state of affairs inspite of the fact that the parliament has amended the constitution to provide for the right to education for all our children between the age groups of six to fourteen. This right has to be delivered through public spending.  Rather than delivering we seem to be moving away from fulfilling this commitment to our younger generation – the future of India.  The reason is the lack of funds, says the government.  The central government is reneging  on this commitment and putting the burden on the state governments to fulfill this obligation.  The states, already besieged under a severe resource crunch and left with very few options  for  resource mobilisation are, naturally, unable to fulfill this obligation.  Therefore, like many other rights, this too continues to remain on paper. 


How much does it cost to put every child in school?  The NCERT has estimated that we would require to spend Rs 35,000 crores every year for five years to fulfill this target.  A period of five years is required for the building of new schools, recruiting lakhs of new teachers, make provisions for mid-day meals, textbooks etc etc.  Cumulatively, this amounts to Rs 1,75,000 crores over five years.  This amount is a thousand crores less than what has been looted in the 2G spectrum scam! 


Likewise, the commitment for food security for our people continues to remain on paper.  It has been estimated that to provide 35 kg of foodgrains  at Rs 3/kg, the CPI(M) has been demanding that this should be at Rs 2/kg, for all families in the country (APL+BPL), would cost the exchequer an additional expenditure of Rs 88,000 crores annually.  This is exactly half the amount looted in the 2G spectrum scam!


It is not that India lacks resources to fulfill its commitment to the people and to raise their livelihood standards.  India’s resources are instead being permitted to be looted in a staggering fashion by these neo-liberal economic policies.  The prevention of these mega scams would have released sufficient resources for an India without malnutrition, with an educated and healthy youth, eliminating for the first time since independence the curse of hunger from the country. 


Yet, this UPA-II government continues to refuse  to allow the parliament to enact an effective Lokpal and Lokayuktas to combat corruption at high places.  It is not that the government, in the process is merely abdicating its responsibilities  to  fulfill the obligations  made to the people by our republican constitution.  It is abdicating these responsibilities through a shift in the priorities of the State which today are focused on facilitating  profit maximisation  by creating  new avenues  for the loot of our country’s resources. 


Clearly,  unless the trajectory of the economic policies are made to radically shift away from favouring profit maximisers towards  improving people’s welfare, our constitutional obligations can never be fulfilled.  Through these columns in the past, we had shown that if the massive tax concessions to the rich were instead deployed through public investments, particularly in agriculture, then much of the distress of the Indian people  that is leading to an increase in the inhuman distress suicides of our farmers can be prevented.  This would have also generated the much-needed additional employment vastly improving the livelihood quality of our people. 


This is not to suggest that India is not growing or developing. The benefits of these growth  and development, however, are designed only for the few at the expense of the misery of the vast majority.  It is this willful lopsidedness that needs to be corrected.  This can only be done through powerful popular mobilisations that must force the government to change  the direction of its economic policies in favour of the people. 


This 63rd Republic Day, therefore, beckons all patriotic Indians to strengthen such struggles, so that these rights of the people can materialise into the reality of a better India.

(January 25, 2011)