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`Development must always touch the masses'

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The Muslim face of the CPI(M) in Kerala and convener of the Left Democratic Front (LDF), Paloli Mohammed Kutty, has been vocal on sensitive issues relating to his party and politics in general. As the LDF looks forward to a convincing win in the Assembly elections, he speaks about the LDF's priorities and its agenda for governance in an interview to C. Gouridasan Nair. Development, he says, will have no meaning if it does not touch the lives of the toiling masses. Excerpts from the interview: What is the main slogan of the LDF in this election?We consider the UDF rule as a period when there was a deliberate attempt to undo the creditable achievements of Kerala in several fields. This is our single major charge against the UDF Government. For instance, while it cannot be said that the State Government is solely responsible for the crisis in the farm sector, it must bear a major share of the responsibility. The suicides in Wayanad and other places are a result of this crisis. We must find a solution. Steps must be taken to boost investment in the farm sector.

The sector that provides employment to the second highest number of persons is the traditional industrial sector. The industries can be revived only with Government support. Two other sectors that are crucial to the State's development are education and healthcare. Kerala has been able to stay afloat despite its deep economic crisis only because of its achievements in the education sector. What the present Government has done is to allow free rein to the private sector.

The slogan of development being raised by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy should normally find acceptance among the middle class. If so, wouldn't it prove harmful for the Left?It is a fact that their campaign has influenced the middle class to a certain extent. Moreover, their campaign that the position being adopted by the Left, particularly the CPI(M), is not in the interest of development has influenced this section to a small extent. But the initial enthusiasm is no longer there because people have understood that this is nothing but empty rhetoric.

Their development perspective and the LDF's perspective are different. The Left cannot think of development that does not touch the lives of the majority. Our perspective on development is that it should help us find a solution to the problem of unemployment.

Although crores are being spent, most industries coming up in Kerala are those that do not generate employment. The clash of perceptions about development is quite strong in Kerala today.

Congressmen allege that development is an unresolved issue in the LDF with those pitching for development and those opposed to it engaged in a major ideological battle... There is a tendency among some sections to come up with sweeping criticism against development initiatives such as Smart City. In our State, we cannot depend entirely upon our own resources for any development project. We will have to mobilise resources from individuals and institutions from within the State and outside.

But, this should be done without surrendering the sovereign powers of the government. They may have to be given certain concessions. They may have to be given land at concessional prices; we may have to have legislations on workers all that may be necessary. But all this will have to be done with the public interest in view. If, on the contrary, we are forced to observe silence simply because they are investing some money, that will be disgraceful. The State will not gain much from such development. This is our only objection.

This is the first LDF manifesto promising an environment policy. Also, there is the promise that separate courts would be set up to handle sexual harassment cases. What are you trying to tell the people?Although individuals have, in the past, taken a positive stand on environment protection, we have not seen it as a major issue so far. This was a shortcoming. Today, we have to see it as a major issue. So we thought we must have an environment policy. Our aim is to educate the masses and prepare them.

As for the second point, these are not isolated incidents now. It has become a regular phenomenon. Although action has been taken, most have taken up to 10 years for a result. This does not deter people who indulge in such actions. There must be quick action. It should not be handled as one among a thousand problems.

Given the importance of the issue, it should be handled separately and there must be deterrent action. We must have a different yardstick in handling cases relating to communal forces and anti-socials like these. If not, these will land among thousand other cases.


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