Polit Bureau Statement On:

One Year of the UPA Government

The UPA government completes one year in office on May 22, 2005. The UPA government took office after the people rejected the BJP-led government in the 14th Lok Sabha election held in May 2004. The people of India had voted for a government which upholds the secular principle, rejects the communal forces and charts a path of development which meets the needs of millions of people who were deprived of the benefits of growth during the six years of BJP rule. They wanted India to play an independent role in world affairs in line with our traditional non-aligned policy without giving into imperialist pressures.

The UPA adopted a Common Minimum Programme. The CPI(M) and the Congress have basic differences on policy matters stemming from our differing class perspectives. Notwithstanding this, the CPI(M) and the Left parties endorsed the CMP while expressing our differences on certain aspects of the programme. It was our view that if the UPA implements the pro-people measures in the CMP, correctives can be applied to the harmful policies of the previous BJP-led government.

The UPA government has undertaken certain steps which are necessary to strengthen democratic rights. It has abolished Pota and adopted the Right to Information Act. The government has taken some steps to detoxify the educational and research institutions and restore the history textbooks scrapped by the BJP-led government. In the changed political situation, the minorities feel more secure. There has been some increase in social sector expenditure though it falls far short of the requirements. The education budget has received more funds though the 2 per cent education cess which is to go to the Prathamik Shiksha Kosh is yet to be set up. There has been an expansion of the mid-day meal scheme and the anganwadi workers programme.

The Rural Employment Guarantee bill which could not be taken up in parliament due to the BJP boycott is an important piece of legislation. However, the bill prepared has diluted some of the key provisions contained in the original commitment in the CMP. The bill needs to be strengthened before adoption. The food-for-work programme initiated in November 2004 needs to be monitored to see that the funds and foodgrains stocks are being utilized properly.

There has been no substantial increase in the investments in agriculture and there has to be a step up in the flow of rural credit. The women’s reservation bill needs to be given priority. The UPA has to get all its partners to support its introduction.

In the foreign policy sphere, the UPA government has taken commendable steps to further dialogue with Pakistan and initiate confidence-building measures and promote people to people contacts. The visit of the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabo has led to upgrading of Indo-China relations. The Indian government is taking some steps to develop the trilateral cooperation between India, Russia and China. However, the UPA government is reluctant to undo some of the harmful steps taken by the Vajpayee government in developing close strategic security and military cooperation with the United States. It has uncritically continued to view Israel as a major supplier of military equipment without seeing the harm it does to India’s standing in the Arab world and in relation to the Palestinian cause.

A fundamental concern of the CPI(M) is that hardly any legislation which addresses the needs of the vast masses of the poorer sections in our country has been moved in Parliament in this one year by the UPA Government. It is true that the disruptive role of the BJP alliance has circumscribed the work of Parliament. However the alacrity with which the Government has moved legislation to push forward policies within the neo-liberal framework is in disquieting contrast with its failure to address some of the basic needs of the people. To illustrate:

A crucial issue for vast masses of our people, which sometimes mean the difference between life and death, is that of the public distribution system and access to cheap foodgrains. Nothing has been done, in spite of the CMP assurance, to reverse the collapse of the PDS under the NDA regime. There have been no steps towards universalisation of the PDS and to lower the prices of foodgrains in the rationing system.

Among the key promises made to the working people in the CMP which remain unaddressed are the legislation for unorganized workers, the legislation for agricultural workers, the legislation against sexual harassment at the workplace, and most importantly the lack of any concern to implement the commitment for land reform. The Government is trying to push through the privatization of pension funds. The refusal to review the Electricity Act 2003 adopted by the NDA Government is leading to widespread discontent both among consumers of electricity who are having to pay higher rates because of privatization as well as among workers and employees in this sector.

A major area of concern is the government’s approach to foreign direct investment in certain sensitive sectors. The government has announced 74 per cent FDI in private Indian banks and allowing FDI in mining and retail trade. Earlier, the FDI in telecom sector was raised to 74 per cent. Such measures erode national sovereignty and also in the case of retail trade will cause big loss of employment adversely affecting millions of small traders and shopkeepers.

Successive hikes in the prices of petroleum products is burdening the common people. It will fuel inflation. The UPA government has to pay heed to the proposals given by the CPI(M) to meet this situation.

Overall the UPA government has shown eagerness to push through measures which are in the interests of foreign finance capital and big business while being unwilling to take up the measures which can provide relief and sustain the livelihood of tens of millions of farmers, workers and other sections of the toiling people.

The UPA government is not sufficiently concerned about the need to distance itself from the discredited policies of the past. There is an entrenched system of thought and personnel that believe neo-liberal reforms are the way to take the country forward. The CPI(M) will contest this approach and continue to put forward alternative policies and mobilize the people to get these policies adopted.

Due to the firm stand and pressure exercised by the Left, the EPF rate of interest was restored to 9.5 per cent; amendments were made in the Patent Bill; the FDI cap in insurance was not raised and there was reduction in the increase in prices of petroleum products.

There has to be a concerted effort on the part of the CPI(M) and the Left to impel the government towards fulfilling the commitment to the peasantry, agricultural workers, industrial workers, artisans, unemployed youth and the rural poor made in the Common Minimum Programme. In the coming days, the CPI(M) will step up mass mobilization and movements to ensure the implementation of the pro-people measures in the CMP. It will firmly oppose the gamut of measures which seek to hand over key sectors of the economy to foreign capital including the financial sector.

As far as the basic interests of the working people are concerned, the CPI(M) will not compromise. Both inside and outside parliament, the voice of the Left will remain strong and sustained to oppose all measures which erode national sovereignty, or succumb to the pressures of international finance capital, and adversely affect the livelihood of the working people.
The UPA government has got the support of the Left parties. At the same time, the CPI(M) will play an independent role and act as the sentinel of the people’s interests. It is for the UPA government in the coming period to ensure the implementation of the pro-people measures in the CMP and strike out a path different from the BJP-led government.