BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY
National Council Meeting
23 & 24 December 2006
Sri Sundar Singh Bhandari Parisar
The UPA government has completed two and a half years in office. Half of its tenure is over. Even a cursory stock-taking of its performance so far suggests that here is a government that has mounted a brutal assault on the livelihood and living conditions of all sections of the common people of India.
The anti-people nature of the Congress-led government had become apparent to the people of India within the first year of its coming to office in May 2004. Riding to power in an unexpected manner, the Congress party had given early indications that it was neither sincere about nor had any genuine commitment to its pre-election promise – “Congress ka haath, aam aadmi ke saath”. Of course, the Congress party has a robust track record when it comes to betraying the promises made in its election manifestos – ‘Garibi Hatao’ in 1971; ‘vote for a government that works’ in 1980’; or ‘vote for a government that works faster in 1984’. But now we have a rag-tag coalition at the Centre about which it can be truly said: here is a government that’s betraying its promises faster than ever.
Every passing month of the UPA government’s tenure validates the twin charges leveled by the BJP. Charge 1: “Congress ka haath, aam aadmi ke saath” has become “Congress ka haath, aam aadmi se vishwasghaat”. Charge 2: “Congress ka haath aam aadmi ke saath” has become “Congress ka haath, khaas aadmi ke saath”.
The first charge is proved mainly by the unprecedented and unabated rise in the prices of essential commodities, which is heaping untold hardships on the common people by drilling a larger and larger hole in their meager incomes. The second charge is proved by the growing divide between the minority of Super-Haves and a majority of Have-Nots in Indian society. While the UPA government revels in the Bombay Stock Exchange’s sensitive index crossing 13,500, it is turning a blind eye to the ever-rising Farmers’ Suicide Index. The stark reality is that under the UPA government India is shining more and more – but for less and less people.
ABYSMAL FAILURE TO CHECK PRICE RISE: The National Executive of the BJP, meeting in Dehradun in early September, had warned the UPA government on its turning a blind eye to the suffering of the aam aadmi through its failure to contain skyrocketing prices of essential commodities. The National Council is forced to return to this issue because of the government’s continued inability and unwillingness in this regard. As the annexed chart shows, the price of every food commodity has registered a steep hike – not only since May 2004, when the NDA government demitted office, but also since May 2006. Dals, which are the main source of protein for ordinary Indians, have nearly disappeared from the regular meals in poor families. Per capita food consumption among the poorest sections of society today is less than what it was 20 years ago. The prices of fertilisers and medicines are going up day by day making the life of common man miserable. Though there was no disaster, bad monsoon or big natural calamity in the last two years, the prices of essential commodities have gone up by 100% in last two and half years, and house hold expenses/budget of the common man has doubled in the same period.
A notable development in the past three months is that international prices of oil have considerably come down – from a high of $ 71 per barrel to $ 51 per barrel now. Usually, when prices of petrol and diesel go up, they have a cascading effect on the prices of all other commodities and services in the economy. What is unusual, however, is that the reduction in the price of imported oil has had no de-cascading effect on the prices of daily-use goods for the common man under the UPA dispensation.
The average rate of inflation during the NDA government’s six years was 3.4%. During the UPA government’s 30 months in office, it is 5% and above. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) has gone up to 7.7% in the current quarter. The relentless price rise since May 2004 conforms to a predictable pattern: whenever the Congress comes to power at the Centre, price rise comes in tow, as inevitably as corruption, shortages, queues, waiting lists and the black market. Presently the shortage of cooking gas and kerosene is hitting the poor and the middle class in the worst form.
Under pressure from the BJP, the UPA government did announce a token reduction in the prices of petrol and diesel, but it was not commensurate with the actual dip in the price of oil in global markets. In any case, it had no impact whatsoever on the general price line. This led even the CPI and the CPI(M), who are partners in the UPA, to complain that the government’s sops are a case of “too little, too late”. In fact, Shri A.B. Bardhan, General Secretary of the CPI, was constrained to be candid in his assessment when he said, “The UPA government has messed up the whole situation.”
COMMUNIST HYPOCRISY: The National Council of the BJP, while highlighting the Congress party’s betrayal of the ‘aam aadmi’, deems it necessary to also expose the hypocrisy and duplicity of the communist allies in the UPA. The Left parties, supported by their trade unions, called for a “nationwide bandh” on December 14 to protest against the government’s “anti-people economic policies”. Although the bandh evoked little response outside Kerala and West Bengal, it laid bare the communists’ two-pronged strategy of showing the red flag of protest outside, to satisfy its restive support base, and the green flag of consent inside, so that they can continue to enjoy power at the Centre without any responsibility.
BETRAYAL OF THE PROMISES MADE TO KISANS: The National Council of the BJP notes with deep distress the UPA government’s total and continuing failure in addressing the multi-dimensional needs of Indian agriculture, which has led to growing impoverishment, indebtedness, dependence on imports, and suffering of farmers in many parts of the country. The share of agriculture in India’s GDP is steadily falling, even though the number of people dependent on agriculture continues to be high. As a result, the capacity of agriculture to generate remunerative incomes and employment is going down. This is an alarming trend. It is a recipe for economic disaster and social ruin for rural communities, but the UPA government is callously unconcerned about this reality. It is a peculiar situation where the kisan is getting lesser and lesser and the consumer is paying more and more.
Suicide by large numbers of distressed farmers, especially in the Congress-ruled states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Punjab, is the most shocking manifestation of the deepening agrarian crisis. The UPA, which had promised to take effective steps to deal with this crisis, has shown itself to be lacking both the political will and competence to fulfill its pledge. The Prime Minister’s much-trumpeted debt relief package covered only some parts of the country and, therefore, was more notional than national. It has proved to be a failure even in Vidarbha in Maharashtra, where not only have suicides by debt-ridden farmers continued unabated even after the Prime Minister’s visit, but the rate of suicides has actually gone up. This has happened because the UPA government has refused to address the root of the problem with a sense of priority – low agricultural productivity, lack of irrigation facilities, growing gap between input and output costs, lack of access to science and technology inputs, near-collapse of the institutionalized credit mechanism for small and medium farmers, inadequate and inefficient marketing facilities for agriculture produce, sparse coverage and poor implementation of crop insurance, and neglect of the development of rural infrastructure, which is best exemplified by the UPA’s sidelining of the Vajpayee government’s ambitious programme of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. The NDA government had aimed to connect every village in the country (with a population of 1,000 and more) with good all-weather roads by 2007. That target is nowhere near achievement.
ABANDONING HOME-GROWN FOOD SECURITY: One of the major recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers, headed by Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, is that India should have home-grown food security, based on adequate, affordable, nutritious and balanced food for every Indian citizen. The Commission has recognized that this need should be met by increased production by Indian farmers, made possible by increased agricultural productivity and remunerative prices for agricultural produce. It has urged that “the gap between what the rural producer gets and what the urban consumer pays must be made as narrow as possible.” It has expressed concern over the fact that both the acreage and yields of main food crops are declining. Indeed, the rate of growth in yields has gone down from 3.75% in 1980s to 1% now.
The Commission has also specifically warned that dependence on imports is detrimental to the interests of Indian farmers. And as the recent case of wheat imports has shown, these were ill-conceived, ill-timed and have adversely affected wheat growers in the country. Wheat procurement is being deliberately reduced every year. From 206 lakh MT in 2002, it has come down to just 92 lakh MT in 2006. At the same time, the UPA government wants to reduce wheat allocation to states, reduce food grain component in SGRY, increase the issue price for food grains for APL families, and also reduce the monthly quota for APL families (many of whom are actually on the fringes of poverty). There are large scale complaints with regard to the quality of food grains that are being supplied.
The National Council of the BJP notes with alarm that the mindset and actions of the UPA government run contrary to the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission. India has never been more insecure on the food front as now, from the point of view of both the kisans and the consumers.
RURAL EMPLOYMENT GURANTEE PROGRAMME ‘BUTCHERED’: A major promise in the Common Minimum Programme of the UPA was that its government would “shortly” introduce a nationwide programme to provide 100 days of guaranteed employment to every able-bodied person in urban and rural areas. The government’s definition of “shortly” was that it took 18 months to formulate the programme. It took another six months to allocate funds, which are not only meager, but are mostly diverted from previous rural development schemes. The coverage of the NREGP is not nationwide as it is limited to rural areas and that too in only 200 districts. This programme is being implemented without any audit or accountability. The authentic figures of the number of jobs created, the amounts spent and the permanent assets created are raising several questions.
The UPA government didn't take any interest to generate additional employment as it promised to create more jobs in the organised sector. On the contrary the neglect of small scale sector and closure of units many people have been rendered jobless. This government did not take any interest to bring a comprehensive employment scheme for social security for unorganised sector which was initiated by the NDA government. On the other hand has either abandoned or slowed down many employment generation schemes initiated by the NDA such as six lane highways, PMGSY, river linking project, sarva shiksha abhiyan. swajal dhara, rural godown and cold storage schemes.
Noted economist Prof. Jean Dreze, who was associated with the conceptualization of the scheme, has this to say about it: “There has been plenty of drum-beating but relatively little by way of effective action....The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act was a golden opportunity for the government to redeem its pledge of solidarity with the aam aadmi. It was handed to the government on a platter by the National Advisory Council, but was promptly butchered before being tabled in Parliament.”
Recent impartial surveys have shown that the most effective implementation of the NREGP is happening in non-Congress states, especially in the BJP-ruled states. Indeed, the two worst performing states, as far as NREGP is concerned, are: Communist-ruled West Bengal and Congress-ruled Maharashtra. In the context of providing basic infrastructure needs in rural areas, the National Council congratulates the Government of Gujarat for recently launching the Jyoti Gram Yojana, under which all the 18,000 villages and hamlets in the state are getting uninterrupted 24x7 electricity.
UPA GOVT IS ANTI-EMPLOYEES, ANTI-MIDDLE CLASS, AND ANTI-SENIOR CITIZENS: The National Council of the BJP wishes to highlight another problem that is adding to the burden of employees in the organised sector and middle-class families. Thanks to good management of the economy during the NDA rule, interest rates on bank lending – for housing and other purposes – had dramatically come down. This had led to a housing boom in the country. Under the UPA rule, interest rates on housing and other loans are once again heading northwards, even though the rates in various deposit schemes are more or less stagnant. The UPA has earlier exhibited its anti-working class nature by reducing the EPF rate from 9.5% to 8.5%. This is especially hurting retired people and senior citizens many of whom are critically dependent on interest income.
In view of the above, the National Council of the BJP demands:
1. a) The UPA government must wake up from its deep slumber and take immediate and effective steps to alleviate the suffering of the common man, kisans, workers in the unorganized and organized sectors, middle classes and senior citizens. Its failure to do so will invite the wrath of the people and undoubtedly endanger its survival in office.
b) The government should immediately start implementing ‘Farm Income Insurance Scheme’ as proposed by the NDA government.
2. Government should announce a complete waiver of interest amount for all farmers in areas affected by repeated crop failure (especially in rain-fed crop areas), high indebtedness and suicides by kisans.
3. The Government should immediately convene a Chief Ministers’ Conference to deliberate on the recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers and prepared a roadmap for time-bound implementation of the agreed agenda.
4. The public distribution system must be streamlined and freed of the cancer of corruption through effective social audit and control. On the lines of the Antyodaya Anna Yojana introduced by the NDA government, a basket of essential food and non-food items should be made available to all BPL families at highly reduced rates. Food allocation to APL families should be restored.
5. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme should be redesigned with the following features:
A: Increase allocation to Rs. 20,000 crore per year, to start with, and increase it year by year as per the requirement.
B: Increase coverage area from 200 districts to all districts including urban areas, as promised in the CMP.
C: Since NREGP is a “demand-driven” programme, take immediate steps to increase awareness about it so that all needy persons can avail of it.
D: Works under NREGP should be closely linked to creation of durable productive assets and infrastructure for villages, as decided by the respective Panchayati Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies.
E: Adequate provisions should be made for appointment of support staff and strengthening of redressal procedures.
6. Interest rates on the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and other deposit schemes should be hiked immediately.
7. a)With regard to land for the establishment of Special Economic Zones, the government should accept the demands and ideas contained in a recent document prepared by the BJP. Specifically, it should not acquire or allot fertile agricultural land for the setting up of SEZs and other such projects.
b) Whenever SC/ST assigned lands cultivated by weaker sections are acquired, adequate compensation as per the market value should be given to the poor who are deprived of their lands.
c) The BJP demands an enquiry in to the manner in which large number of approvals were given to the SEZ without conformity with provisions of acts and rules.
8. The BJP demands that the government should immediately bring in social security scheme for those working in unorganized sector.
The BJP National Council calls upon its workers, sympathizers and the people at large to stoutly oppose the anti-aam aadmi, anti-kisan and anti-working class policies of the UPA government. The National Council also serves notice on the government to be ready to face a massive nationwide agitation.
Chart showing abnormal rise in prices of various essential commodities during the UPA regime