Labour unions should spearhead campaigns to promote key welfare-State principles rather than set short-term goals, P. Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu, has said.

He was addressing the golden jubilee conference of the Kerala NGO Union here on Saturday. “Unions should concern themselves with major socio-economic issues along with their struggles against unfair labour practices and incomes. They should fight the propaganda unleashed against them by a section of the media,” he said.

Three major changes

He quoted Australian social psychologist Alex Carey, “The 20th century has been characterised by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.”

He said that India had clearly moved away from the ideal of generating productive employment. “Informal workers account for 93 per cent of the total workforce. About 80 per cent of workers are in the non-manufacturing sector and their employment is on informal contract. Since 1991, the country has 15 million farmers fewer. On an average, 2,035 farmers are quitting farming every day. They are going into the lowest ends of the service sector. According to a December 2012 report of the Institute of Applied Manpower Research (IAMR) “employment in total and in non-agricultural sectors has not been growing.” The “jobless growth” is accompanied by casualisation and informalisation,” he said.

He said that India was fifth in the world dollar billionaires list, but had declined on the Human Development Index.

“A good percentage of children in the country are malnourished. India ranks 65 among 79 nations in the Global Hunger Index (GHI), eight slots below Rwanda. Per capita food availability has declined every five years without exception from 1992 to 2010 whereas from 1972 to1991 it had risen during every five-year period,” he added. He criticised the reported shift in the farm sector from food crops to cash crops and the proposed switch from food rations to direct cash payments to the poor.

“How can the direct cash payments work? About 60 per cent of the people still do not have a bank account,” he said.

Kerala NGO Union State president P.H. Ismail presided. K. Radhakrishnan, MLA, and CPI(M) district secretary A.C. Moideen were present.

More In: Kerala | National