The Left parties -- the CPI(M), CPI, AIFB and RSP -- have issued the following statement:
Two Years Of The UPA Government
The UPA government has completed two years in office on May 22, 2006. The performance of the government has to be assessed on the basis of how it has implemented the Common Minimum Programme and met the challenges of the time.
The UPA government came into office with a mandate to uphold the secular principle and to chart out a path of development which would benefit all sections of the people while ensuring all-round progress for the country.
In the first year of the UPA government, it had taken certain steps such as the abolition of Pota and adopting the Right to Information Act which strengthened democratic rights. A major step taken in the second year of the government has been the adoption of the Rural Employment Guarantee Act which is now being implemented in 200 districts. It is important that the Employment Guarantee Act is implemented properly in all these districts and expanded to cover the entire country within the next three years.
The government has also brought the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill to parliament which is now being studied by a Joint Select Committee. This Bill, after taking into account the recommendations of the Committee, will be an important step for protecting the rights of the tribal people to their traditional lands in the forests.
But these are insufficient. While the legislation on domestic violence and property rights for women were adopted, the Women’s Reservation Bill is yet to be taken up in parliament despite constant reminders. The government has also to expeditiously take up the social security measures for the workers of the unorganised sector regarding which a report has been submitted by the Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector. The Prevention of Communal Violence Bill should also be adopted so that effective measures can be taken to curb communal violence and to safeguard the rights of the victims of such violence. A comprehensive Central legislation for agricultural workers provided for in the CMP has not even been considered.
The UPA government has initiated talks with various parties and groups in Jammu & Kashmir. The dialogue with the separatist organisations must be pursued alongwith consultations with the main political parties represented in the Jammu & Kashmir assembly so that a political solution can be found. The Left parties have also supported the dialogue with Pakistan and the measures taken so far for improvement of relations.
The UPA government is satisfied with the overall economic performance by citing the GDP growth rate of eight percent in the last year. However, this claim does not account for the agrarian crisis which has affected the farmers and the rural poor. Farmers’ suicides continue at a disturbing rate and rural unemployment is increasing. The allocations for agriculture lag behind what is required. The policy on agriculture is flawed with foodgrains production not increasing. The recent decision to import three million tonnes of wheat manifests this wrong policy. With declining procurement, food security and the public distribution system are bound to be affected.
The government has shown no concern for the continuous rise in prices of food items and other essential commodities. There is a failure to strengthen and expand public distribution system with the prevailing outlook being how to reduce the food subsidy. After increasing the prices of petroleum products four times in the last two years, the government is considering another steep hike citing the increase in the international oil prices. The government refuses to review the taxation structure for petroleum products by which the government has imposed a big burden on the people. Without reduction of the tax burden on petroleum products, any attempt to impose added burdens on the people will have no justification and has to be strongly resisted.
The two years record has shown the UPA government’s eagerness to push through policies which are in the interests of foreign finance capital and big business while it has been tardy in taking up those pro-people measures in the Common Minimum Programme which would benefit the working people. The government has gone ahead with allowing FDI in certain vital sectors despite the Left’s opposition. The recent decision to open retail trade to FDI in single brand category is one such step. The government continues to be committed to allowing foreign banks to takeover Indian private banks and, to facilitate this, it wants to do away with the 10 per cent voting cap in the Banking Regulation Act.
Privatisation is sought to be pushed forward in various ways. Privatisation of the Delhi and Mumbai airports in the name of modernization is one such glaring example. Now this is sought to be expanded to other airports despite the earlier stance that the resources of the Airports Authority of India will have to be used for modernization of the airports apart from Delhi and Mumbai. The privatisation of pension funds of government employees is sought to be pursued through legislation. Licences to foreign and Indian private mining companies threaten the livelihood and lands of tribal people who face displacement.
The recent crash in the stock market and the volatility of the market underline the danger of going for full capital account convertibility about which the Prime Minister has made an announcement. The government refuses to impose long-term capital gains tax or any other measures which can raise additional resources for the government to finance its social sector and developmental expenditure.
The reservation quotas for the OBCs in higher educational institutions have to be implemented. The Central government has to bring legislation to empower state governments to regulate admissions and fees in the private professional educational institutions. The expansion of school education upto the secondary level and public health requires a much bigger allocation of funds. More attention has to be paid to the expansion of educational and employment opportunities for the Muslim minorities.
Increasingly, the UPA government is pursuing a foreign policy which detracts from the commitment made in the Common Minimum Programme for an independent foreign policy. The Indo-US “strategic partnership” forged during the Prime Minister’s visit to Washington in July 2005 and President Bush’s visit to India in March 2006 in the second year of the UPA government is of serious concern. Under the guise of a nuclear cooperation agreement, the United States is extracting a heavy price from India. India changed its stand on the Iran nuclear issue and it has embarked on a defence cooperation which is increasingly aligning India as a strategic partner of the USA in Asia. Not only that, the United States is directly exercising influence on domestic policy making. Whether it be our energy policy, the knowledge initiative in agricultural research with the participation of US multinationals research (the Iran gas pipeline project has been virtually shelved), the demand for further liberalisation of the financial sector, the demand for privatisation of basic services and infrastructure development, – all these are part of the neo-liberal policies which are being implemented in India with open US backing.
The Planning Commission has become the hub for the initiation and pushing for such policies, contrary to the spirit of the Common Minimum Programme.
The Left parties will focus on these areas in the coming days. It will, both inside and outside parliament, vigorously assert that all measures which erode national sovereignty, or, which are at the dictates of international finance capital that adversely affect the interests and the livelihood of the working people, will be resolutely opposed.
At the same time, the Left will continuously raise the demand that the government take immediate steps to tackle the agrarian crisis to ensure further employment opportunities for the unemployed youth and rural poor and take steps to consolidate and strengthen the public sector in all the sectors where it has to play a key role.
The Left parties will be meeting soon to take stock of the overall political situation, the role of the UPA government and chalk out an appropriate course of action which can strengthen the secular and democratic forces in the country and ensure that the interests of the working people and the rights of the common citizens are protected under the UPA government’s dispensation.