Left parties scrutinise Centre's performance

Special Correspondent

Price rise, agrarian crisis, unemployment among problems mentioned

Left parties highlighted 12 areas of concern Gender equality, ending caste discrimination, protection of minorities' rights required, says note Coordination Committee not producing any concrete results

NEW DELHI: The Left Parties said it was necessary for the United Progressive Alliance Government to politically determine the course of action to be pursued in the coming days after observing that even after two years of the UPA at the Centre, the material condition of people was yet to change for the better. Taking a close look at the Government's different policy issues through a nine-page note, the Left parties highlighted 12 areas of concern. Based on the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP), they marked 15 steps the Government should take immediately to further augment its ongoing efforts.

"After the passage of two years of the UPA Government, the people are yet to realise that their material conditions are changing for the better. Price rise, agrarian crisis, unemployment, lack of access to education, health and basic services are problems, which need urgent attention. Welfare measures for the oppressed sections and firm measures for gender equality, ending caste discrimination and protection of the rights of minorities have to be pursued. All this has to be accomplished within the framework of development and economic growth which promises equity and is people-oriented," the note said.

The Left parties expressed concern that the Coordination Committee has been a mere forum for discussing issues that did not produce any concrete results. They said so far 19 notes on various policy matters were given but there were only few instances where discussions produced results. They Left parties plan to discuss the points raised in the current note at a later date after the UPA gives a considered response.

The areas which need focussed attention were Central intervention to check attacks on minorities, with Gujarat coming in for special mention, the adoption of the Communal Violence Bill, stepping up public investment in agriculture, implementing recommendations of the National Commission for Farmers; strengthening public distribution system and moving towards universal food security and checking the hoarding of foodgrains and essential commodities. Further measures that were needed included monitoring the implementation of the Rural Employment Guarantee Act in 200 districts so that the whole country was covered within the next three years, introducing the Women's Reservation Bill without delay; adopting the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, 2005 in the next session; a comprehensive legislation for agricultural workers and adopt another providing social security for workers in the unorganised sector. Discussions with trade unions on all proposals and measures concerning labour before taking up any legislation and not reducing interest rate on employees provident fund; universalising Integrated Child Development Scheme and legislation to empower States to regulate admission and fees in private professional educational institutions also needed urgent attention, the note said.

The other suggestions included implementation of minor irrigation works in scheduled castes/tribes areas; steps to increase the proportion of SC/ST employed in the private sector and the expansion of education and employment opportunities for Muslims; not allowing foreign companies in retail trade; not privatising or weakening profit-making public sector units and giving Airports Authority of India the task of modernisation of existing airports; and reorienting foreign policy towards a clear-cut independent foreign policy. It expresses concern that the foreign policy faces "serious distortion because of the obsessive drive to harmonise position on regional and global issues with the U.S. strategies. This runs counter to the commitments made in the CMP to promote multi-polarity in international relations."