People's Democracy

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


No. 31

July 05, 2012


Struggle For Real India


G Mamatha


THE Left parties are organising a five-day dharna from July 30 to August 3 demanding immediate legislation guaranteeing food security. P Chidambaram, who had commented, “We are prepared to pay rupees twenty for an ice cream cone but won’t pay one rupee more for a kilo of wheat or rice” is back as the finance minister. While the Left parties protest reflects the growing anger among the people against the flawed policies of the UPA government, the reinstatement of Chidambaram as finance minister shows the intent of the government to further marginalise the poor and downtrodden in our country. Let us not forget, is it not Mr Chidambaram who had laid roads for our three billionaires with 212 billions in assets (in 1996), to increase the number of their ilk to 48 with 9,088 billions in assets (in 2012)? And is it not his economic policies that had resulted in the rise of prices of almost all essential commodities in this period and an increase in poverty?


The people who had come to Delhi had braved many odds to be part of the dharna. They were from all over Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh (as we go to press). The rains and the difficulties in commuting long distances from their villages and towns did not deter them from coming. In fact, these adversities strengthened their resolve. An old woman from Tohana in Haryana, representing many of her sisters said this in as many words: “We work day-in and day-out, but what is the use? We are unable to eat two meals a day and are forced to ask our children to join us in work. Otherwise, how will we earn enough to eat even those two meals? We produce wheat, but we cannot eat roti. Is there anything more painful than this? Our journey...this nothing before this”.


The peasants from Punjab had got more to add. “You look like a town-bred girl. You do not know the problems of our rural people. We are all happy when our fields are ripe with wheat during harvest season, but this happiness does not last long. All our harvest is rotting in the huge godowns...even at railway stations. We are growing thin, the rats are growing fat. We do not get price for what we produce and we do not have money to buy what we produce as the prices are always rising”. This, in fact, is the mood of almost all the thousands who had come to participate in the dharna. They are all agricultural labourers, small peasants, workers and unemployed, representing the real India.


The speeches of the leaders struck an instant chord with the participants as they were referring to their daily problems and the reasons for it. An interesting feature is that during the speeches, the people were actively participating by either mumbling how correct the speaker was or sharing with their sisters a related aspect. For example, when the speakers were mentioning about the fact that the food grains are exported to other countries only to be fed to the cattle there, they expressed their anger with the choicest abuses.


Speaker after speaker brought out various facets of the government policy that is depriving the common people of food security and the double-speak of the Congress party and the UPA government. None other than our prime minister epitomises this double-speak. While releasing the ‘Hungama' report (2012), he said that he was “shocked” to find 42 per cent of children malnourished, and called it a “national shame”. Can we believe that the prime minister of a country, with years of experience in the government – as finance minister, governor of the RBI, finance secretary, Vice-Chairman of the Planning Commission – is really unaware of this fact? Giving him the benefit of doubt, the gentleman that he is, can we stop from questioning what steps he had initiated to immediately address this issue of 'national shame'? Nothing much, except forming an Empowered Group of Ministers on Food Security, which is one among the many such groups that the government had formed. And now, without making public the output or recommendations of the 'empowered group', we got to hear that the group is, in fact, wound up.


May be, the prime minister is more concerned about addressing the 'international shame': his failure to offer our retail sector at the altar of FDI and satiate the hunger of international finance capital! He is more concerned about the ratings given to our country by Standard and Poor, Moody's and Finch rather than that given by the International Food Policy Research Institute, which ranks India 66 among 88 vulnerable countries in its Global Hunger Index. He might be 'shocked' at some future date to learn that according to a new food security index that looks at food affordability, availability as well as its quality and safety, India is ranked 66 out of 105 countries. India scored especially low when it came to the affordability of food. By the time our prime minister is 'shocked' and 'shamed', many of our malnourished, suffering people would taste the limits of mortality.


Another important aspect that struck emotional chords with the participants is the mention of the abrasive inequalities prevalent in our society. Montek Singh Ahluwalia should have heard the collective sighs of the people whenever a speaker quoted the obnoxious poverty line fixed by the planning commission, especially on the mention of his renovated toilet costing 35 lakh rupees. A back of the envelope calculation shows that it takes 330 years of labour for a citizen who is just above poverty line to earn 35 lakh rupees (earning Rs 27 per day, one rupee above the poverty line fixed for rural poor). Incidentally, because that citizen is categorised as 'APL', he cannot access many of the government schemes that target the 'poor'. Irony is, he is categorised together with a fellow APL citizen like Ahluwalia who can renovate his toilet with 35 lakhs and spend a staggering Rs 2.02 lakh per day for his foreign travel!


The heights of irony with which our government acts can be understood from the simple fact that the government wants to target and slowly eliminate subsidies. The classification of APL, BPL is intended for this purpose. It sees subsidies as an impediment to the growth story of India. Of course, incentives it gives to the rich in the country are not impediments, they are, as the name itself indicates, doles to further growth! As this paper had repeatedly mentioned, nearly 5,28,000 crores of rupees are given as incentives to the rich. In fact, only a fraction of this would be necessary to ensure that all the people of our country are provided with food security. And food security as defined by the World Food Summit (1996) is: “Access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. Is the government ready to ensure this? The question of class comes into play and we know where the government stands.


The struggle initiated by the Left parties is significant in this background. The dharna taking place in Delhi is complimented by dharnas taking place in various cities across the country. These were preceded by a month long extensive campaign on this issue. The impact of the campaign found a resonance among the people of our country and this is reflected not only in the numbers in the dharna, but in the vibrant participation of the people. Unfortunately, the media is once again ignoring the plight of the real India, expressed in this dharna.  We never expected the media to be a 'collaborator' or a 'cheerleader' for this cause, but at least as the editorial of a prominent newspaper notes, of course in another context, it should have used its 'analytical and questioning cast of mind', to 'serve the public good'. But again, does it really stand by the 'public good' or by its 'class interests'?


The struggle we are witnessing in Delhi is historic in more than one sense. Of course, it is historic because of the very nature of the call for five-day dharna and the issues it seeks to raise. It is also historic because it is a test of strength and character of the popular struggles and the government that is trying to shift gears for further reforms. It is a struggle for claiming real India – India for its multitudes of toiling people or the few who feed on these toiling people. History teaches us that it is always the many who will be victorious. When, depends on us.