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Karat calls for Left agenda for Kerala's development

Special Correspondent

Says Kerala must protect gains in social sector, increase production

SETTING AN AGENDA: CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat inaugurating the valedictory function of the second International Congress on Kerala Studies in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and top leaders of the CPI(M) are al so seen. Photo: S. Mahinsha

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat has called for a Left agenda for Kerala's development, one that will protect the gains of the past in the social sectors and show a viable path for the future, particularly in enhancing material production.

Inaugurating the valedictory session of the second International Congress on Kerala Studies (ICKS), organised by the AKG Centre for Research and Studies, here on Sunday, Mr. Karat said the first task of the new Government in Kerala should be to address the agrarian crisis. This, he said, would call for stepping up investment in agriculture and improving the quality and quantity of yield. Increase in material production would also require focus on the industrial sector and Kerala stood a good chance for developing agro-processing industries and harnessing biotech nology. The CPI(M) general secretary said that in the industrial sector, a large part of the investment would have to come from the private sector and reminded the plenary session of the conference that the party and all those who worked for the State's development would have to be open to foreign direct investment (FDI) in future to help expand industrial capacity.

He said that women's role in society today was not commensurate with the State's historical gains. Women's work participation rate left much to be desired and a major share of women's employment was in the traditional industries. Economic planning should address this grave problem, he said. He also cautioned the conference against the inroads being made by caste and communal forces into the secular space and the attempts being made by caste groups into spheres of public action. Caste and communal forces should not be allowed to carve out public resources in higher education.

There should be greater social control over private higher education institutions, he said. Describing the People's Plan Campaign as `an important initiative,' Mr. Karat said it should be taken forward. On the question of resources, he said the Central Government policies were not helpful to Kerala and suggested that Centre-State financial relations should be taken up in all seriousness.

Delivering the keynote address at the function, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy concurred with Mr. Karat's views and said the State Government also had serious reservations about the Central Government stand on fiscal matters.

While the Finance Commission was denying funds to the State on the ground that it had already achieved many of the development targets, the Planning Commission was doing the same on the ground that the State did not have the ability to raise its own resources.

The State could not also agree with the curbs imposed by the Centre on direct borrowing by State Governments. The Central Government should adopt a realistic stand on such issues, Mr. Chandy said.

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