The CPI(M) on Wednesday flayed the Union government for not controlling the price rise and failing to provide relief to the people from its crushing impact, and promised to organise a mass movement on the issue.
“There has to be a nation-wide struggle. Every citizen should have the right to food and by going to the people with a definite programme and adding strength to the issue, we can convert it into a “jan andolan” [peoples’ movement],” the CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said at the conclusion of a national convention on “For the Right to Food and Against Price Rise.”
The day-long convention, organised by the CPI(M) and its affiliated organisations, adopted a resolution demanding that the Public Distribution System (PDS) be made universal, the targeted PDS system be scrapped; provide 35 kg of foodgrains at Rs. 2 a kg; expand the PDS to include pulses, sugar, cooking oil and kerosene at subsidised rates; incorporate all food and nutrition schemes of the Centre; promote national self-sufficiency in production of foodgrains, pulses, sugarcane and oilseeds; and strengthen the PDS.
Mr. Karat said the CPI(M) did not agree with the government’s yardstick of delineating people Below and Above Poverty Line. In early 1990s, when India opened its economy, the IMF/World Bank pressured the then Congress government to reduce food subsidy under “structural adjustment.” The CPI(M) described the move “as a conspiracy to weaken and finish the PDS.”
The CPI(M) “in principle” supported the government’s move for a food security legislation, but with alternative proposals.
The resolution, moved by party MP Brinda Karat, registered opposition to proposals such as limiting benefits to the BPL people, slashing family quotas from 35 to 25 kg and raising the issue price from Rs. 2 to Rs. 3 a kg; eliminating all subsidies and access to the PDS for all APL households; and restricting the legal entitlement to rice and wheat and excluding other essential commodities such as sugar, pulses, edible oil and kerosene.
Other speakers at the convention said the decision to permit forward trading resulted in the price rise.
Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury said the rise in volumes ran into several lakh crore rupees in the last two years. He demanded a ban on 25 commodities under forward trading.
Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar blamed the policies of successive Congress governments for a situation that even after 62 years of Independence, the country was not able to eliminate hunger and poverty.
West Bengal Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta touched upon the schemes of the State government within available structure to implement alternative polices that resulted in land reforms, increased foodgrain productivity and self-sufficiency and augmenting irrigation.
The Kerala Finance Minister, Thomas Issac, said the State would double the fair price shops.