Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), has said the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre has failed to solve the relentless and unprecedented price rise as it is not giving up the neo-liberal policy framework.
Inaugurating a one-day seminar, “EMS and Kerala development,” organised by the Keluettan Studies and Research Centre in connection with the conclusion of the EMS birth centenary celebrations here on Monday, Mr. Karat said the Centre had refused to acknowledge that its approach to the public distribution system (PDS) had destroyed the very system and eroded the livelihood of millions of working people.
He said the genesis of the price rise did not lie in any natural calamities or in the dislocation of supply and distribution of food grains. The Centre wanted the prices of food grains and basic consumer necessities to be controlled by the market forces.
He said the government cut the allocations of wheat and rice for the above poverty line (APL) category by 70 per cent. “Now it is offering an additional allocation of 10 kg per person but not at PDS price. The Centre is offering food grains at Rs.17 per kg, including the transportation cost, to the State,” he said.
He said the Centre imported wheat at Rs.14-15 a kg when wheat prices skyrocketed. At the same time, the government procured wheat from farmers at Rs.9 a kg.
Similarly in the case of sugar, Mr. Karat said, the government adopted a policy which benefited the sugar mill owners enormously. It did not build a buffer stock when sugar production was high.
“And now when farmers shifted from sugarcane production because they were not getting a fair price, we find that the government is now importing sugar or allowing the import of sugar at Rs.40 per kg,” he said.
He said 33 sugar mill companies increased their profit from Rs.30 crore to Rs.900 crore in over one year. “The farmer who produces the sugarcane has suffered and the consumer who buys sugar is suffering,” he said.
Mr. Karat said all the policies being pursued by the Centre in the name of registering economic growth “is the growth without jobs.” The number of jobs had increased only by 2.6 lakh in the organised sector, both in the public and the private sectors, during the period from 1991 to 2006. But the Centre claimed that “we are registering 8-9 per cent growth.”
He said land reforms did not figure on the agenda of the Centre. The government had been able to distribute only 73 lakh acres out of the 500 lakh acres of surplus land during this period. Of this, only 53 lakh acres was finally distributed to the small farmers and 20 per cent of this was in West Bengal.
He criticised the UPA government’s proposal of large-scale divestment of 50 profit-making public sector units.