People's Democracy

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


No. 04

January 27, 2013






Precept & Practice Move Further Away



THE Congress party at its recent Chintan Shivir has sounded the bugle for the coming general elections in the country. A detailed resolution, which reads like an election manifesto, that it adopted called the Jaipur Declaration states this objective unambiguously by saying that  the party is “preparing for the electoral battles that lie ahead in 2013 and 2014”. The preamble of the declaration  pompously lays claim to the fact that what India is today is only because of the Congress party’s “seminal contributions to India’s unity, integrity, secular polity and democratic federalism”.  Further it says that the Congress party “set the direction of the economy of the country, especially at critical turning points in its history”.  Notwithstanding such undue usurpation of the glory of India, the resolution, in a nutshell, is a classic example of how distant can precept be from practice.  The entire declaration   can be summed up in the following: India and Indians must do what the Congress party says and not what it does. 


For instance, the declaration states that the party “recommits itself to the principles of economic growth and social justice which have come to define the inclusive growth model …” In fact, the opposite has been the experience of the Indian people during these decades of neo-liberal economic reforms.  As the GDP growth rates rose, so did the hiatus between the two Indias.  52 US dollar billionaires, on the one hand, having combined assets that equal a third of country’s GDP and, on the other hand, over 80 crores of our people struggling to survive on less than Rs 20 a day. 


Further it says that, “The Indian National Congress will continue to be at the forefront of fighting corruption at all levels, especially corruption at the bureaucratic and political levels”.  In the ranking of hollow claims, such hollowness cannot but rank the highest.  Former ministers of this Congress-led UPA-2 government continue to languish in jails on corruption charges.  The CAG continues to submit reports exposing mega corruption scams.  The trajectory of economic reforms has, in itself, opened up hitherto unknown avenues for super scams. 


In the same vein, it lays claim of a “firm political commitment to addressing India’s human development, especially the challenges, infant and maternal mortality, access to water, sanitation and basic healthcare, and housing in both urban and rural India….”  And, it proceeds further to make a commitment to “ensuring the elimination of hunger and malnutrition in India by the year 2020”.  Recollect that during the Congress-led UPA rule, India has regularly slipped down on the United Nations Human Development ranking.  The prime minister himself bemoaned last year that India’s high levels of child malnutrition is a “national shame”. 


Consider the severity of this “national shame”.  The World Bank measures not absolute but relative hunger, ie, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger broadly based on three component indicators – child underweight; child mortality rate; and  the proportion of undernourished people.  Even in terms of relative hunger measurements, India ranks at number 65 in a total of 79 countries assessed by the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2012. Neighbouring Pakistan and Nepal are ranked higher.  What is worse is the World Bank’s observation, “According to latest data on child under-nutrition, from 2005-10, India ranked second to last on child underweight out of 129 countries.  Only Timor-Leste (try to locate this country on the map) had a higher rate of underweight children.”  India’s GHI 2012 is 22.9, higher than the GHI 1996 of 22.6.  This is the result of the two decades of the highly `celebrated’ reform process. 


Likewise, the declaration promises “education for all, quality education, quality instruction by qualified teachers and expansion and upgradation of the government school system”.  It is now years since the Indian constitution was amended by parliament to give the right to education.  It still is waiting to be implemented.  At the same time, the government continues to bring in new legislations that legalise the privatisation and commercialisation of education.  Nearly four-fifth of India’s skilled manpower comes from private institutions while the comparative figure for the USA is one-fourth.  Such an expansion of private and commercial education system is taking place at the expense of the governmental institutions which continue to be deprived of adequate  funds and personnel.  Nevertheless the declaration is replete with such promises like “We will create 10 million jobs every year and impart skills training to youth to take up these jobs”.


In the section on economic policy, it speaks of the prosperity of the Indian farmer and promises of a fair and remunerative minimum support price.  As we had noted in these columns last week during the last two years, the cost of production increased at much higher levels than the increases in the minimum support price.  It is little wonder that our desperate farmers continue to commit distress suicides.


The declaration does not merely justify the trajectory of neo-liberal economic reforms but in fact hails this as responsible for increasing “prosperity”.  For instance, it fully endorses the decision to allow foreign investment in the retail trade sector. 


The highlight of the declaration, however, remains the three key slogans with which the Congress party seeks to get the people’s support in the forthcoming elections.  These are the cash transfer or the direct benefits transfer – aap ka paisa aap ke haath – scheme; the enactment of a national Food Security Act and a new legislation on Compensation and Resettlement and Rehabilitation in Land Acquisition. 


We have seen in these columns in the past that the cash transfer scheme is not merely a big fraud being committed on the people but it is also illegal as the parliament has not yet enacted the legislation for Aadhar, the foundation of this scheme.  The Food Security Bill pending before the parliament does not guarantee a universal access to foodgrains. No meaningful food security in the country is possible unless all families, APL and BPL, are provided with a minimum of 35 kg per month of foodgrains at not more than Rs 2/kg through a universal public distribution system. 


It is, thus, clear that these three promises constitute the flagship of Congress party’s electoral strategy.  However, the efforts to achieve higher growth rates through neo-liberal economic reforms and, at the same time, “to ensure inclusive growth with jobs to reduce inequality” are irreconcilable.  The intensity of `shining India’ is directly proportionate to the severity of `suffering India’.  Such is the logic of capitalism. As India proceeds to allow its economy and resources to be further prised open for profit maximisation by international and domestic capital, the exploitation of the people intensifies widening the hiatus between the two Indias. 


In an effort to pursue this policy direction, the Jaipur Declaration shifts India’s independent foreign policy towards one that tilts in favour of imperialism led by USA. While it says that India’s foreign policy “is predicated on the enduring principles of non-alignment as enunciated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, yet creatively adapted to meet the needs of relationships between nations in a rapidly changing global scenario”.  This section that is emphasised here signifies the shift. Further, the declaration is bound to cause concern in our neighbouring countries when it says, “There is a need to reposition India’s leadership in South Asia”.  What this means is not clarified. 


Clearly, therefore, the Indian people must brace themselves for further economic onslaughts and greater dependence of our country on foreign capital and the consequent pressures on our independent foreign policy.  On both these crucial policy issues, there is very little that differentiates the BJP from the Congress party.  What India and our people require is an alternative policy direction that enriches our country and enhances people’s prosperity.  The coming elections must be used as a platform to project and advance such a Left and democratic policy alternative. 

(January 23, 2012)