Left Parties Statement

The Left parties – Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, All India Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party – met in New Delhi. They took stock of the situation in the light of the UPA government completing four years in office. They have issued the following statement:

Price Rise

The UPA government has failed to check the rise in the prices of essential commodities, particularly food and fuel prices. The government pleads helplessness on account of global inflationary trends. This cuts no ice since insulating the domestic economy from adverse global trends is a major responsibility of the government.

The UPA government has largely ignored the steps suggested by the Left parties to curb price rise. The Left parties put forth five demands in this respect.

· The government has not taken steps to strengthen the Public Distribution System. The Targeted Public Distribution system has proved to be a complete failure. It is essential to universalize the PDS.

· The wheat procurement has been above the target in the current season. This is welcome. But it begs the question why procurement fell short of the target over the past two years necessitating the high-cost wheat import? The private traders were given free rein to buy foodgrains from farmers and restraints put on the FCI. While ensuring a fair MSP to farmers, curbs should be placed on the procurement of foodgrains by private companies and traders.

· With the increased procurement, the cut in the allocations of foodgrains to the states must be immediately restored.

· The government has not prohibited futures trading in 25 agricultural commodities as recommended by the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution. Only four more commodities have been included in the list of prohibited items.

· The UPA government has ignored the demands to restructure the excise and customs duty regime on crude oil and petro-products. This is the only durable solution in an era of high international oil prices.

· The government is reduced to making pleas to the steel and cement cartels to reduce prices. The government has not strengthened the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act, so that hoarding can be more effectively combated.

The Central government clings to its neo-liberal prescriptions. It is so addicted to free market reforms that in spite of people suffering due to price rise, it refuses to impose controls and regulations.

The Left parties will continue the agitation to curb price rise.

Agrarian Crisis

· The Left parties noted that only half-hearted attempts have been made by the UPA government to address the agrarian crisis and revive agriculture. Several major recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers have not been implemented such as the setting up of a price stabilisation fund to protect farmers from falling prices, reducing the rate of interest on farm loans to 4 per cent, universalisation of crop insurance and expansion of MSP to cover all crops.

· The loan waiver scheme announced in the budget has excluded bulk of the debt-driven farmers from dry land area.

· The thrust of the agricultural strategy of the government continues to be on expanding the role of private corporates in procurement, warehousing, marketing and contract farming.

· After four years of the completion of the UPA government, the Left parties will oppose: 1) any efforts to push the anti-farmer Seed Bill 2) moves to allow FDI in warehousing and retail trade, and 3) efforts to amend the Forward Contract Act in order to allow FDI and FIIs into the commodity futures market.

“Super Cabinet”

· Under the guidance of the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, this body is behaving like a “super cabinet”. The UPA had given a firm commitment to the Left parties that the 35 non-metro airports would be modernized by the Airports Authority of India when the government decided to go ahead with the privatization of the Delhi and Mumbai airports. Now, the Planning Commission is seeking to subvert this decision by pushing for private participation in the commercial operations and maintenance of the terminal buildings of the 35 non-metro airports. In the case of the Kolkata and Chennai metro airports also, the Commission has delayed the modernization by the Airports Authority of India, a fact attested to by the Minister for Civil Aviation himself.

· The Planning Commission is pushing, in the name of public private participation (PPP), private aggrandizement of public resources. It has insisted on the involvement of the private sector in the railway freight corridor.

· As per the recommendations of a high level committee set-up by the Planning Commission, the UPA government has initiated steps to further liberalise and privatize the mining sector and promote indiscriminate exports of iron ore and other minerals. This should not be done as it is plundering precious natural resources by the MNCs and big corporates. The mining is being promoted by destroying forests and violating environmental laws.

Stop Retrograde Policies

· The Left parties are opposed to the Foreign Education Providers Bill which will lead to private foreign universities opening teaching shops in India.

· The SEZ Act and Rules need to be drastically changed, so that large-scale acquisition of agricultural land, real estate promotion and indiscriminate tax sops are stopped.

· The UPA government is trying to introduce MNCs like Walmart into the retail trade through the backdoor by allowing joint ventures with Indian companies.

Defence Links With Israel

The deepening military and security collaboration with Israel is detrimental to India’s vital interests. Israel has become the second biggest supplier of weapons to India and making huge profits out of it which in turn is used to finance its aggression against the Palestinian people. India should stop launching Israeli spy satellites and cease military collaboration.

WTO – Doha Round

· In the ongoing WTO negotiations on the Doha Round, the recently released draft texts on agriculture and NAMA reflect attempts to subvert the development mandate of the Doha Round and divide the developing countries. India must reject the NAMA text, which seeks to force disproportionately large tariff reduction commitments on developing countries. Efforts to dilute the provisions of the Special Safeguard Mechanism in agriculture for the developing countries and restrict it for a very narrow range of agricultural commodities should also be opposed. The government should stand firm that such terms are not acceptable to India and no deal will be possible under such terms.

Implement These Measures

· The Women’s Reservation Bill has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha. This is a welcome step. The UPA government should ensure the passage of the Bill after the Standing Committee submits its report.

· The government should rework the Bill on social security for unorganised workers on the basis of the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Labour and get it passed in Parliament to benefit the crores of workers who are the most exploited.

· A Central legislation to empower the states to regulate fees and admissions and salaries of teachers in the private higher educational institutions should be adopted.

The UPA government should realize that it will have to face the wrath of the people suffering due to price rise and the deterioration in their living standards. In this last year of the UPA government, the Left parties express their firm resolve to resist the neo-liberal policies and to continue the mobilization of the people to force the government for bring in immediate measures to provide relief to the people from price rise, agrarian crisis, unemployment and loss of existing livelihood.