Excerpts from the MANIFESTO of Key Political Parties
The Government has tightened the stranglehold of MNCs on Indian agriculture, locking farmers into a debt trap, and opened up agriculture, forcing our farmers to compete with heavily subsidised farmers of the West and leaving them at the mercy of global price fluctuations. As a result of the UPA Government’s refusal to reverse these killer policies, farmers in Vidarbha (Maharashtra), Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Wynad (Kerala) continue to reap the harvest of suicides.
In spite of Vidarbha suicides being linked with the failure of seed MNC Monsanto’s Bt.cotton, the Indian Government has allowed Monsanto to conduct field trials of GM crops. Clearly the UPA Government is quite willing to risk our health and environment and sacrifice farmers’ lives in order to protect the interests of MNCs. The Manmohan regime’s Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture has signed away India’s own independence in agricultural research.
Even as labour laws and workers’ rights are blatantly violated, the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act excludes large sections of workers in informal and contractualised jobs and, in the absence of any fund commitment by the Government, fails to provide any effective ‘social security.’
The kind of Congress monopoly that existed at the Centre till 1977 has become a thing of the past and the ruling classes have been forced to reconcile themselves with this new political reality. With single-party domination becoming elusive, the ruling classes would now like to impose a two-party or two-coalition system.
This ruling class design to subject the polity to a duopoly of the UPA and NDA must be frustrated. But a rag-tag ‘third front’ that offers no policy alternative and is crowded by forces with dubious track record cannot face this challenge. Only a powerful Left and democratic camp drawing its strength from the struggles and aspirations of the Indian people for a better tomorrow can be the most effective bulwark against the ruling classes’ attempt to regiment the polity.
The 14th Lok Sabha had the biggest ever representation of the CPI(M) and its Left Front partners, but any hope that this would lead to a powerful Left assertion in national politics and strengthening of the Left and democratic camp was belied. The CPI(M)-led Left allowed itself to be shackled programmatically to the Congress-led UPA for most part of the UPA government’s tenure. The CPI(M) failed to demarcate itself over the issue of SEZ, a sinister pretext for corporate landlordism, and the SEZ Act 2005 was allowed to be passed without any protest. Worse still, the CPI(M)-led government in West Bengal became infamous for the most coercive attempts to acquire agricultural land in the name of industrialisation and SEZ.
The growing derailment and degeneration of the CPI(M)-led regimes in West Bengal and Kerala has come as a shock to the well-wishers of the Left even as it has emboldened the Congress and other rightwing forces all over the country to try and tarnish the image of the Left. Any real advance towards an effective third front to take on both the UPA and NDA calls for a rejuvenation of the Left movement and this in turn cannot be achieved without a firm and sustained struggle against the lapses and blunders and mistaken priorities and policies of the Left in power.
At the same time, the CPI(ML) also recognises the need and possibility of forging broader unity on issues of common concern. In Bihar, the CPI(ML) has taken initiative to unleash united action of diverse Left forces against the misrule of the NDA government in the state and in this election it has been possible to ensure seat adjustment among the three parties in Bihar.
Ending agrarian crisis and peasant distress:
• India should walk out of the WTO-sponsored Agreement on Agriculture
• Thoroughgoing land reforms and lowering of land ceiling
• Subsidised agro inputs for small and medium farmers and regulation of prices of all inputs
• Vastly enhance public investment in agriculture and infrastructure and arrange for comprehensive crop insurance
• Zero-interest credit for farmers; a new Debt Relief Act to be enacted to curb usury
• Procurement guarantee at fair MSP (minimum support price)
• Ban on forward/futures trading in agricultural produce
• Scrapping of SEZ Act
• No to forcible acquisition of agricultural land
• No to introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops without a rigorous and transparent scientific evaluation; immediate stop to all field trials of GM crops
More jobs, Enhanced Purchasing Power
• Expand NREGA to provide at least 200 days of employment
• Enact a law for Urban Employment Guarantee on the lines of NREGA
• Enlist all poor in the BPL list, ensure that the poor are given 50 kilograms of grains at the rate of Rs.2 per kg and 5 litres of kerosene at the rate of Rs. 2 per litre every month, expand and strengthen the PDS system
• Extend provisions of 6th Pay Commission on minimum wages to unorganised sector workers and NREGA workers and guarantee daily minimum wages of Rs. 200
• Regularise all contract workers and para-employees
• Enact comprehensive welfare legislation for Agricultural Workers
• Increased Public Spending
• An end to the privatisation and contractualisation of health services and higher investment in public health,
• Ensure safe drinking water and sanitation for all
• Ensure compulsory universal primary education for all
• Enhanced expenditure on rural infrastructure
• Guaranteed housing for rural and urban poor
Checks on Corporates and MNCs
• Seeks details of money stashed by Indian corporates in Swiss banks and reclaim the same, recovery of unpaid loans defaulted by big business houses
• Confiscation of assets and nationalisation of enterprises of fraudulent corporations
• Punishment for corporations guilty of pesticide poisoning and recovery of damages from them under the principle of “polluter pays”
• Reverse the trend of FDI relaxation and corporate penetration in retail, insurance and other sectors, impose strict curbs on foreign capital
• No to sops, subsidies, tax waivers etc. for corporates
Excerpts from the MANIFESTO of Indian National Congress
The Major Accomplishments: 2004-2009
• It has launched the National Rural Health Mission which has already made a positive impact by improving the quality and accessibility of primary health care in villages. More children are now being delivered under the care of trained health professionals. Around six and a half lakh women have been trained and posted as accredited social health activists (ASHAs).
The Work Programme: 2009-2014
• we will enact a National Food Security Act
The Indian National Congress pledges to enact a Right to Food law that guarantees access to sufficient food for all people, particularly the most vulnerable sections of society. The Indian National Congress pledges that every family living below the poverty line either in rural or urban areas will be entitled, by law, to 25 kgs of rice or wheat per month at Rs 3 per kg. Subsidised community kitchens will be set up in all cities for homeless people and migrants with the support of the Central government.
• We will guarantee health security for all
The National Rural Health Mission has already begun to make a noticeable impact and will be implemented with an even greater sense of urgency. The Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) introduced by the Congress-led UPA Government offers health insurance for poor families. Expenditure on health is a major cause of indebtedness, particularly in rural areas. The Indian National Congress pledges that every family living below the poverty line will be covered by the RSBY over the next three years. Every district headquarters hospital will be upgraded to provide quality heath facilities to all.
• We will ensure comprehensive social security to those at special risk
The Indian National Congress will ensure a comprehensive cover of social security to all persons who are at special risk including (i) single-woman headed households; (ii) disabled and the elderly; (iii) urban homeless; (iv) released bonded workers; (v) members of primitive tribal groups; and (vi) members of designated “most backward” dalit communities.
• We will be make quality education affordable to everyone
India today has one of the largest educational loan programmes in the world. Over the past five years, over fifteen lakh students have received loans totaling more than Rs 26,000 crores and are pursuing various professional courses.
The Indian National Congress now pledges that all students admitted to any recognized course in any recognized college/university will be provided, on a need basis, either a scholarship or an educational loan without collateral repayable over a very long period.
In order to ensure quality school education for all children, we have already made a beginning by approving the setting up of one model school in every block of the country. Every year, over the next five years, we will add one more model school in every block.
The Indian National Congress pledges to focus more sharply on outcomes and achievement levels in education and not just on enrolment. It also pledges a major programme for training of teachers and improving the physical environment in schools.
A massive expansion in higher education has been undertaken in the past two years—8 new IITs, 7 new IIMs, 5 new Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research, 30 new Central Universities, 20 new Indian Institutes of Information Technology and 374 new colleges in educationally-deprived districts. The Indian National Congress pledges to ensure that these expansion plans are implemented fully with their twin focus on excellence and affirmative action.
• We will ensure energy security for our country
The last two years have seen a very sharp turnaround in the addition to power generating capacity. This momentum will be maintained and it will be ensured that the country adds at least 12,000-15,000 mw of capacity every year through a mix of sources—coal, hydel, nuclear and renewables. Rural electrification and reduction in distribution losses will be given the highest priority. The Indian National Congress promises a very significant increase in the share of nuclear power, both through domestic and imported technology which has now been made possible by the civil nuclear agreements. The pace of oil and gas exploration will be intensified. India’s oil diplomacy will be pursued aggressively. The Indian National Congress will implement a scheme to supply energy to poor families at affordable prices.
Third Front – a recipe for chaos
There is also the so-called Third Front, a grouping of opportunistic parties. These parties have neither consistency nor clarity. They have neither competence nor commitment. This Front, grounded in the politics of convenience, is nothing but a platform for personal ambitions. It speaks of “alternative polices” without spelling out what these alternatives are. Parties of the Third Front do one thing when they are in power and quite another when they are rejected by the people.
The Left Parties, who are prime movers behind the so-called Third Front, supported the Congress-led UPA government for over four years. They attempted to exercise authority without taking on any responsibility. At every step, they violated the discipline, restraint and sobriety so very essential for running a coalition smoothly. At every step, the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, briefed them on all important issues. The Left Parties withdrew their support on the issue of the civilian nuclear agreement even though it had been negotiated and concluded on our own terms. They adamantly refused to listen to reasoned arguments that convincingly demonstrated that the agreement was in India’s supreme national interest.
The Left Parties and their present partners pride themselves on being secular. On the contrary, it may be recalled that they had actively aligned with the BJP in the past. They are, in fact, responsible for the electoral growth of the BJP.
As past experience has shown, the Third Front is a recipe for political instability. Lacking a natural national anchor, it is a recipe for chaos, not cohesion.
Excerpts from the MANIFESTO of the CPI (M)
The CPI(M) constantly demanded increased allocations in agriculture, education and health in keeping with the promises in the CMP.
For all its supposed concern for the aam admi, the UPA government worked overtime to pamper the super rich. The government flaunts a 8.6 per cent growth in GDP for four consecutive years till 2008. What does this growth mean? Till 2007, India recorded the fastest growth rate of billionaires in the world. Four out of the ten richest people in the world are Indians.
We are a country with rich natural resources, skilled manpower and scientific and technological prowess. Yet, predatory crony capitalism has condemned us to be a society with some of the worst human development indicators in the world:
• 230 million people are undernourished
• More than half of India’s women are anaemic
• 40 per cent of children under three years are underweight
• 2,19,000 habitations have no access to clean drinking water
• 39 per cent of adult population is illiterate
• 77 per cent of the population spends less than Rs. 20 a day
• The share of wages in the organised industrial sector is among the lowest in the world
Under the Congress-UPA dispensation:
• The agrarian crisis continues. Suicides by farmers have not abated.
• The public distribution system has been further enfeebled. The BPL category excludes large sections of the poor. 52 per cent of the agricultural labour households are excluded from the PDS. Allocations for the APL category have been drastically cut.
The food policy is callous and inhuman. Three crore tonnes of foodgrains lie in the godowns but the government refuses to undo the cut in the allocations to the states.
The Manmohan Singh government promoted policies favouring big business and big corporates, both Indian and foreign. SEZs were designed to help these interests grab large tracts of land and they were given a bonanza of tax sops.
The backdoor entry of FDI in retail trade is jeopardising the livelihood of lakhs of small shopkeepers and traders. There has been rampant privatisation of health and education systems, thus depriving the common people of health and education facilities. Allowing FDI in real estate and encouragement of real estate speculation has led to land grabbing and a massive increase in land prices in and around urban areas. It has become impossible for the poor and the middle classes to own a decent home.
The Congress-led government has promoted public-private partnerships in various infrastructure projects whereby the public sector bears all the costs and the private party reaps all the profits. The Hyderabad Metro, now mired in the Satyam-Maytas scandal, is one such glaring instance.
The rights of workers and employees have been curtailed. The EPF rate of interest was reduced to 8.5 per cent. The government has promoted contractualisation and casualisation of labour. Ignoring the recommendations of the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector and the Standing Committee on Labour, the
government passed an Act in parliament which makes a mockery of the rights and protection for workers of the unorganised sector.
The fiscal stimulus packages announced by the government have been grossly inadequate and mainly aimed at providing tax concessions to bail out big corporates. Even such concessions have not been linked to any conditionalities to protect the workers from lay-offs and retrenchment. No measures have been undertaken so far to protect the peasantry from price crashes and import competition. The Centre has ignored the plightof the overseas migrant workers and not included them in the stimulus package. The only way to come out of the crisis is by creating demand and new jobs. This requires massive public investment in employment generation, rural development, agriculture, social sectors and infrastructure. This is exactly what the government has refused to undertake.
The ruling alliance vitiated the parliamentary democratic system by large scale use of money, bribery and intimidation to purchase and encourage defections from the opposition to win the vote of confidence in July 2008. Earlier, in 1993, faced with a no-confidence motion, the Narasimha Rao government had bribed opposition members of Parliament. The Congressled government, however, took this to new and sordid heights.
The government displayed complete contempt for Parliament by extending the July 2008 special session till the end of December, and doing away with the winter session altogether. Thus, the number of Parliament sittings in 2008 were reduced to a mere 46. Misuse of public institutions and investigative agencies was also the norm under this government.
The Satyam-Maytas scandal is a shocking example of how crony capitalism is leading to institutionalised corruption. The patronage given to the Satyam-Maytas combine by the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh involves lucrative contracts and transfer of thousands of acres of land. Special Economic Zones have become the instruments for large scale transfer of land to corporates depriving the farmers and the rural poor of their meagre landed assets.
ROLE OF CPI(M) AND LEFT VIS-À-VIS UPA GOVERNMENT
The CPI(M) and the Left acted as sentinels of the people’s interests vis-àvis the UPA government. At least two major legislations – the NREGA and the Forest Tribal Rights Act – would not have come about in the present form without the CPI(M)’s intervention.
The Left parties made crucial interventions in NREGA legislation which have proved to be of great benefit to the people. These include: (1) the deletion of a clause which gave Government the right to terminate the programme if it so wanted; (2) to ensure that it be made a universal right for anyone who was willing to do manual work and not limited to BPL families alone as suggested by the Government; (3) a special provision to ensure that at least one-third of the beneficiaries are women; and (4) to ensure more flexibility in the type of projects that may be taken up through the introduction of a clause that gives State Governments the scope to make suitable project proposals.
It was the sustained intervention by the Left and particularly the CPI(M) that led to the enactment of the Scheduled Tribes and other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act. Here again without the Party’s intervention, the Act in the present form would not have been possible.
The interventions by the CPI(M) and the Left resulted in (1) change in the cut-off year from 1980 to December 2005; (2) inclusion of other traditional forest dwelling communities as beneficiaries; (3) increase of land ceiling from 2.5 hectares to 4 hectares; (4) inclusion of expanded rights to minor forest produce; (5) expanded role of gram sabhas and panchayats; (6) right to development projects in forest areas within a limited area; and (7) securing equal rights of women.
Similarly, the CPI(M) intervened to modify the Patents Amendments Act of 2005 to protect the interests of the country with regard to the provision of less expensive generic drugs for the people. The Left did not allow dilution of the Right to Information legislation. It is due to the continuous pressure of the CPI(M) and the Left that there was increased allocation for education even though it did not attain the 6 per cent of GDP mark promised in the CMP.
The role played by the CPI(M) and the Left in the past five years led to the protection of financial sector from the ravages of speculative finance capital.
• The Left protected the banking sector by not allowing the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Act which would have facilitated the takeover of Indian private banks by foreign banks.
• The Left defended the insurance sector by preventing any legislation to increase FDI in the insurance sector from 26 to 49 per cent.
• Pensions of lakhs of government employees were protected by the Left’s decision to oppose the Pension Fund Regulatory Act which would have led to pension funds of government employees being privatized and put in the stock market.
The CPI(M) and the Left firmly defended the public sector and national sovereignty.
• The integrity of the ‘navaratna’ PSUs was protected by the Left which did not agree to the disinvestment of shares in BHEL.
• To protect the interests of lakhs of small shopkeepers and traders, and workers employed by them, the Left opposed the opening up of the retail trade to MNCs and prevented their full-fledged entry.
• To protect the farmers’ interests, the Left did not support the Seed Bill which could not be passed in the Parliament.
• To protect the integrity of the educational sector, the Left stopped the passage of the Bill to allow foreign educational institutions and universities to be set up in India.
• To protect the interests of the working class, the Left prevented the introduction of anti-labour laws.
All through the four years when the CPI(M) and the Left supported the government, the CPI(M) worked assiduously to protect national sovereignty and to prevent implementation of some of the worst aspects of the neo-liberal policies which would have harmed the people’s economic interests and livelihood.
The country requires alternative policies. Pro-people economic policies; provision of social equity; consistent secularism; genuine federalism; and an independent foreign policy. The CPI(M) appeals to all democratic and secular forces to support such alternative policies. For this, an alternative political platform is required. The CPI(M) will work for the creation of a non-Congress, non-BJP government which will strengthen democracy, ensure equitable economic development and social justice.