The Central Committee of the CPI(M) met in Kolkata from September 29 to October 1, 2007. It has issued the following statement:
The Central Committee condemned the efforts of the BJP and the RSS outfits to obstruct the Sethusamudram project on religious grounds. The Sethusamudram project and the alignment of the canal were decided by the previous BJP-led government. But now opposing the project is nothing but playing communal politics. All scientific evidence shows there is only a natural geological formation.
Bereft of any platform of peoples’ issues, the BJP is seeking to make political gains through communal polarization. The BJP is grossly mistaken if it thinks it can arouse religious sentiments on this issue and make political capital out of it. The Central Committee demands that the project be executed without delay.
UPA Government’s Dismal Record
The Central Committee took stock of the various policy measures undertaken by the UPA government in the recent period.
The record of the last few months show that the UPA government is callous about fulfilling its pro-people commitments in the Common Minimum Programme. On the other hand, the government continues to promise opening up FDI to retail trade (as the Finance Minister announced recently in the United States) and taking further measures to allow foreign capital in the financial sector as it has promised the Indo-US Joint CEO Forum.
No Let up In Price Rise
The Central Committee expressed its deep concern at the continuing price rise of food items and essential commodities. Though the government claims the rate of inflation is at the lowest level in the past two years, there is no respite in the rise in prices of vegetables, edible oil, wheat, dal, etc. The government has miserably failed to tackle the price rise by taking firm measures to stop speculation and hoarding of essential commodities. The people, burdened with price rise find no relief because of the dogged refusal of the government to strengthen the public distribution system.
The Central Committee of the CPI(M) demands a high-level inquiry into the management of wheat stocks and imports of wheat. It is indefensible that the Government should pay as much as Rs. 1600 a quintal to foreign traders when it paid Indian farmers an MSP of Rs. 850 a quintal. At the same time, the decision to import wheat at higher prices of $ 325.59 and $ 389.45 a tonne compared to the initial tender of $ 263 a tonne has led to a loss of around Rs. 540 crores to the national exchequer for the import of 13 lakh tonnes. The gap in meeting targets in domestic procurement is because of the virtual handover of procurement to foreign and Indian corporates. This is the second year in a row when India is forced to go in for imports eroding food security. The CPI(M) demands a reversal of these polices, it demands that the Government give a better price and protect the interests of farmers particularly poor and marginal farmers who are victims of the huge increase in price of agricultural inputs leading to acute distress.
The Central Committee of the CPI(M) condemns the callousness of the Government towards the widespread agrarian distress. The growing number of farmer suicides is a matter of deep and grave concern and should be a priority for the Government. Over 70 per cent of farmers are small and marginal farmers who have borne the brunt of the current economic policies. The figures being put out by the Government of increased rural credit conceal the fact that the majority of farmers have no access to credit and are still dependant on money lenders charging exorbitant interest rates. The demand of farmers for a fair price as MSP for a larger range of crops is urgent as farmers are being ruined and agriculture becoming unviable because of lack of Government support to protect farmers from the manipulations of international prices.
Public Distribution System (PDS)
The PDS is in a state of virtual collapse due to the targeting system which has excluded large sections of the poor. According to the Arjun Sengupta Commission report around 77 per cent of India’s population is earning less than 20 rupees a day but this large section is excluded from social benefits by faulty methods of poverty estimation which peg poverty at 327 rupees a month. All those above this line are APL (above poverty line). Now the Government has reportedly taken a decision to further cut food supplies to APL sections. The CPI(M) strongly opposes and condemns such a cruel move at a time when India has the largest malnourished population in the world. It demands that the Government take steps for universalizing the PDS, increasing the number of BPL families as an interim measure and extend the Antodaya rates to all tribal areas.
The Central Committee criticized the Central Government for its tardy implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations. The CPI(M) Central Committee demands that the Government declare a sub-plan for minority communities with specific allocations on the lines of tribal sub-plan. This is essential to ensure a comprehensive action plan to implement the Sachar Committee report. In the absence of specific allocations, the report of implementation of the Sachar Committee placed by the Minority Affairs Ministry in parliament is little more than tokenism. Worse, the Finance Ministry’s appears to be deliberately sabotaging the commitment for 15 per cent loans to minority communities in the priority sector loan programme. Even the latest RBI report does not reflect this policy. Although a budget announcement was made that 20,000 merit cum means scholarships were being given to minority community students it has been revealed by subsequent Government circulars that not only has the scheme not yet been implemented but it is expected to be done only by March-September 2008, that is two years after it was announced. The CPI(M) demands that immediate steps are taken to implement the Sachar Committee recommendations. It demands inclusion of Muslim and Christian dalits in the scheduled caste lists.
Tribal Forest Act
The CPI(M) central Committee deplores the Government’s inexplicable refusal to notify the Rules for the Tribal Bill. As a result thousands of tribals are being evicted from their land in forest areas. This is subverting the will of Parliament since the Bill was adopted unanimously by parliament in December 2006. the CPI(M) demands that the Rules be notified without delay.
The CPI(M) Central Committee demands that the UPA Government extend NREGA immediately to all districts and not wait till April 2008. The assurance made to parliament when this question was raised was that it would be done “very soon.” The sincerity of the Government on this issue is also questionable because the funds being made available show that the Government is actually on a path of scaling down the programme. In the last budget itself it increased the number of districts by 130, that is 65 per cent, but increased funds by only 6.19 per cent. The Central government also has to accept and implement the demand of several states to include a foodgrain component to protect workers from the rising prices of rice and wheat.
Women’s Reservation Bill
The CPI(M) Central Committee strongly criticizes the Government for its refusal to even introduce the Women’s Reservation Bill in parliament leave alone ensure its passage. It condemns the BJP for its betrayal of the struggle for women’s reservation by its announcement that it would not support reservation of seats for women. It demands that the UPA Government implement its commitment to the women of this country.
Unorganised Sector Workers
The Central Committee expressed its disappointment at the draft bill on social security for workers in the unorganized sector, which has been introduced in parliament. The bill does not meet some of the basic requirements for provision of social security for the vast mass of workers in the unorganized sector. There has to be a separate legislation for agricultural workers. The Central Committee demanded that the government modify the draft legislation taking into account the proposals of the Arjun Sengupta committee, the trade unions, the agricultural workers and peasant organizations.
The Central Committee condemned the decision of the Empowered Group of Ministers on gas pricing. It has accepted the Reliance company’s proposal to inflate the price of gas contracted from the Krishna-Godavari basin. The EGoM has decided at a price of $ 4.2 per unit, which is only a little less from the price claimed by Reliance of $ 4.33 per unit. This is against the original price contracted of $ 2.34 per unit. By this, the Reliance company will get windfall profits adversely affecting the power and fertilizer industries. The cost will be passed on to the people by the escalation of prices of power and fertilizers. The UPA government has to be held accountable for this shameless pro-big business decision, which will adversely affect the interests of the farmers and the common people.
Iran Gas Pipeline
The Central Committee expressed its concern at the slow down of the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. At a recent meeting held in Tehran, India chose not to attend the talks. There are widespread apprehensions that the Indo-US nuclear deal will spell the end of the gas pipeline project to India. The UPA government should explain to why there is a delay in the negotiations.
The Central Committee of the CPI(M) expresses its deep concern at the unprecedented devastating floods in several parts of the country. After the first flood fury many States have been affected by a second spell of floods. Thousands have lost their lives and livelihood, the extent of misery of thousands whose homes have been washed away required urgent and immediate redressal. The Central Government must act without any delay in providing financial aid and foodgrains to the affected States.
Don’t Proceed With Nuclear Deal
The Central Committee heard a report from the Polit Bureau on the developments regarding the Indo-US nuclear deal. The Central Committee reiterated the stand adopted unanimously by it in its August 22-23 meeting which asked the government not to proceed with taking the next step of negotiating the text of a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The UPA-Left Committee on the nuclear issue is examining the various aspects of the Hyde Act and its implications for foreign policy and security related matters.
The UPA government should not proceed further on the next steps with regard to the nuclear deal till it can be discussed in the Winter session of parliament.
The Central Committee authorized the Polit Bureau to take appropriate measures to see that the Central Committee’s stand is implemented.
Solidarity With Democratic Movements in South Asia
The Central Committee expressed its full support and solidarity with the democratic forces in Bangladesh who are fighting for restoration of democracy and the holding of immediate parliament elections.
The Central Committee extended support to the popular movement in Pakistan for the restoration of democracy and an end to authoritarian rule.
The Central Committee strongly condemned the military regime in Burma for unleashing brutal repression on the peaceful protests by the monks and people who are waging a protracted struggle for an end to military rule and for the establishment of a democratic system.
The Central Committee decided to revoke the suspension of V.S. Achuthanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan from the membership of the Polit Bureau. They will be reinstated in the Polit Bureau with immediate effect.