People's Democracy

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


No. 12

March 13, 2012



Insensitive towards Aam Aadmi’s Plight


THE president of India has delivered the longest speech in recent memory to the joint session of the parliament to begin the current budget session.  Considering the fact that no incumbent president has ever been returned to the office after one term (save except for Rajendra Prasad), this could well be considered to be a farewell speech of sorts by India’s first women president. 


The speech containing 106 paragraphs, however, lacks both the vision and betrays a lack of confidence in attaining the many lofty objectives that it preaches.  The insensitivity towards the plight of the aam aadmi is reflected by the fact that the speech was completely silent on the burning issues before the vast majority of our people like the relentless price rise and the continuing distress suicides by our farmers. 


An unusual feature of the speech is that the president repeated, almost verbatim, the prime minister’s New Year address to the nation.  The president said: “My government will work on five important challenges that our country faces today.” What are these challenges?  The same five that the prime minister placed before the nation: national security; economic security; energy security; ecological security; and livelihood security (education, food, health and employment for the people).  Apart from all other issues that are customarily referred to in these addresses, let us consider how these challenges are sought to be overcome.


There can be no dispute or difference of opinion in the need to strengthen national security, both internal and external. The president, however, echoing the prime minister lays almost exclusive emphasis on promoting the by now infamous public-private-partnership in achieving the three other objectives of economic, energy and ecological security.


The objective of achieving livelihood security was ironically exposed the very next day when the Census of India released its report on `Houselisting and housing Census’ data of 2011. This clearly confirms  what we had stated in these columns in response to the maiden speech of this very president, five years ago, when she assumed office – that her government’s economic policies are creating two Indias – a ‘shining’ and a ‘suffering’:  a ‘shining’ for a small minority and a ‘suffering’ for the vast majority. 


The cheer leaders of neo-liberal economic reforms are trumpeting the phenomenal rise in the number of mobile telephone users in the country which stands at 53.2 per cent, or, nearly 600 million. The other side of the story is that almost the same percentage of households do not have proper latrine facility in their houses. Amongst those who have, nearly 50 per cent do not have proper sanitation with no drainage.  68 per cent of India consumes untreated water while 37.1 per cent households live in a single room.  Nearly a third of our population do not have electricity connections and almost 50 per cent of the households still use firewood for cooking.  Less than five per cent of Indian households own a four-wheel motor vehicle.  Worse is the fact that nearly 18 per cent of all households that includes 23 per cent of rural households had none of the specified assets on which this Census was conducted.  This means that these households do not even have a one room shelter. A fourth of rural India, thus, survives without a roof over their head.


This is the current livelihood status of real India. 


If this has to be changed for the better, then clearly the policies that have brought about and institutionalised such growth of inequalities need to be reversed.  This is precisely what the president says in her long speech that her government will not do.  On the contrary, new neo-liberal reforms are slated to be introduced which will only further widen this divide between the two Indias. 


There can be no dispute on the need to achieve these five securities for the sake of building a better India.  But the reality is that the exact opposite is what is being delivered  to the vast majority of our people.  


Thus, the challenge of achieving true livelihood security for all our people  and for putting them on a path of improving  the health of their life, it is imperative that popular struggles must be  intensified  to change this government’s policy direction towards building a better India  that ensures the true livelihood security for all our people.  It is the outcome of this ongoing battle between the vast majority of our people and the current policy direction of our government that will define the future of a better India for all its people, not merely for the few.


(March 14, 2012)