(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
July 08, 2012
Importance of the Struggle for Food Security
THE Left parties are conducting a joint campaign and movement on the issue of food security throughout the country in July-August. This movement is to demand a universal public distribution system to ensure food security for all citizens.
demand for a food security law which will ensure the right to
food for all
people has become all the more urgent and necessary as there
is no let-up in
the price rise of food items and as the food inflation rate
hovers around 10
One would have thought that in such a grim situation, the UPA government would urgently take up the Food Security Bill pending before parliament. But it has become evident that the government has other priorities.
HANKERING FOR FREE
The worsening economic situation has led to strident calls for the implementation of more neo-liberal measures. The economic slowdown is being attributed to the UPA-2 government’s failure to push through neo-liberal reforms. The economic advisors and the corporate media see the present impasse as the most opportune to prod the Manmohan Singh government into undertaking the very measures which have led to the crisis in the first place. The chorus of demands are coming in thick and fast: decontrol diesel pricing; open up multi-brand retail trade to FDI; stop harassing foreign investors and speculators with tax avoidance regulations; step up the disinvestment of shares in the public sector enterprises, and so on.
That the UPA government is heeding to these demands became evident once again in the last few days. The prime minister has taken charge of the finance portfolio after the exit of Pranab Mukherjee on his becoming the candidate for the post of president. Immediately after assuming charge of the Finance Ministry, the prime minister met the officials of the ministry and told them: “We need to reverse the climate of pessimism. Revive the animal spirits in the country’s economy; there are problems on the tax front which need to be addressed.” The “animal spirits” is a refrain of the prime minister whenever he wishes to give a fresh thrust to free market enterprise.
The advent of the prime minister to the Finance Ministry has led to two immediate steps being taken. The first is a re-look at the retrospective tax amendment passed in the finance bill during the last budget. This amendment enables the revival of the demand for capital gains tax on Vodafone to the amount of Rs 13,000 crore. The amendment was cited as one of the main reasons for scaring off foreign investors and FII flows. Both C Rangarajan, the head of the prime minister’s Economic Advisory Council, and Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, have decried this step. Though this has been passed by parliament, Ahluwalia had declared that it should be used in the rarest of occasions.
second step is the review of the General Anti-Avoidance Rules
(GAAR). These are
rules meant to check avoidance of tax on funds flowing into
With such an outlook to revive the economy, measures such as the food security law are seen as populist and wasteful. The food security legislation was expected to be passed in the monsoon session of parliament. But there are no signs of this happening. The Standing Committee of parliament looking into the legislation has not completed its work yet. The draft bill perpetuates the targeting of people into priority (BPL) and general (APL). This will automatically exclude 54 per cent of the families in rural areas and 72 per cent in the urban areas. The below-poverty-line (BPL) cardholders will have to pay Rs three per kg of rice when eight states are providing rice at Re one or two per kg for those in the BPL list.
government is eager to please the foreign speculators and
finance capital by
further liberalising their entry and ensuring that their
profits are not taxed
while people of
1) No BPL or APL, we demand a universal public distribution system
2) 35 kg of foodgrains at not more than Rs two per kg every month for each family
3) Scrap the Planning Commission’s bogus poverty estimates as the basis for welfare rights
4) Implement the Swaminathan Commission recommendations for a fair price and profit margin for farmers.
movement will culminate in a five-day dharna from July 30 to
August 3, 2012 at