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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 6, January 30, 2010

PM Should Rethink

Monday 8 February 2010, by Chaturanan Mishra

On the foundation day of the Indian National Congress the Prime Minister said that terrorism, communalism, Naxalism and regionalism were the major challenges before the nation. He forgot that the corrupt and anti-people administration is the main cause behind those challenges. After the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York on September 11, 2001 the USA took measures and that is why no second attack became possible. India, on the contrary, has had to face repeated terror attacks. Maharashtra’s former IG of Police, in his book Who Killed Karkare?, has given several instances of Hindu terrorists having been helped by IB officials to get free from the cases against them.

There is an alround feeling today that politics is the easiest method of amassing wealth without risk and it is no longer the vehicle to serve the people as was the case during the days of the freedom struggle. No national political party, including the Congress, has any leadership now which can rally the masses in a big way. The same is the condition of the BSP and Left parties. The Prime Minister himself cannot win from a general seat in the Lok Sabha and has to enter Parliament through the backdoor of the Rajya Sabha. The Congress should have better discussed why it has only one State Government between Tripura and Gujarat and between West Bengal and Tamil Nadu on the sea coast.

The main problem is: what will happen to India as the national parties are fast losing their bases?

For more than two decades now the govern-ment is running without any aims and objects. In Gujarat the Muslims were massacred on a mass scale but the same Chief Minister continues to rule the State. No political party could do anything to punish him within the country or in the International Court of Justice. Then why shouldn’t communalism gain? After coming to power in 2004 even the UPA Government, that was led by the Congress and backed by the Left parties at the Centre, did not act.

The Union Government and Congress talk of inclusive growth. But this cannot be achieved without the corporate sector also paying for it. However, as The Economic Times of December 29, 2009 reports,

Top guns of India Inc. may fire 45 per cent rise, Reliance making super profit of Rs 20k crores alone from K.G. gas.

The profit of the corporate sector, which was 100 in 1985-86, rose to 814.54 in 2000-01, according to the CMIE; and according to The Economic Times of November 24, 2003, in September 2003 they received 110.6 from interest and from other sources like business etc. only 62.4. The rate of interest was reduced by the government itself. According to Corporate Governance, the number of private sector companies which paid zero tax was ten and one among them was a transnational but the number of PSUs in this category was zero. According to the world famous DUM Brad Street, 31 PSUs in India contributed substantially larger share to the exchequer than the private sector companies. Whose fault is this? If we want inclusive growth then we must have more and more public sector units even for enhancing our revenue.

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Naxalism is growing because the government’s machinery as also the courts fail to protect the poorer sections from the atrocities of the moneylenders, other exploiters and even rapists; and the Naxalites give them relief immediately with guns in their hands while even Communists fail to do so by working constitutionally. It is mostly the old communist areas the Naxalites control today. Introduction of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution in these tribal areas can help a lot since the Sixth Schedule will empower the tribals to enact laws on moneylending, land, minerals etc. through elected District Councils. But the government is not doing this.

Now the Naxals are spreading to non-tribal areas too.

If the government wants to really tackle Naxalism then it must carry out some basic reforms.

As far as regionalism is concerned, now there is no divisive demand for a Dravidistan or a Sikhistan while Nagaland and other areas of the North-East are more peaceful than before. Today it is in the Congress-ruled States like Maharasthra and Assam that Bihari workers are beaten up and killed and the governments there are not taking appropriate action to bring the culprits to book. It is not clear what the Chief Minister of Delhi said about the Biharis. If they want their own people to get preference in employment, the concerned State governments should have arrangements with the employers to fix a wage limit up to which local people would be given preference if they are willing to work. Instead poor Bihari workers are being killed while the State governments look the other way.

The demand for new States is arising in different States because of the neglect of those areas by the concerned State governments as well as the Centre. The demand for smaller States is not a symptom of regionalism but because these areas have remained most neglected and backward for decades at a stretch.

The State governments are heavily indebted. Bihar used to spend 23.39 per cent of its revenue as interest to the Centre. In Bihar, banks invest less than one-fourth of their deposits while the money from Bihar goes to Mumbai as well as other developed regions and States. All the floods affecting North Bihar come from a foreign country, that is, Nepal, and this is a Central subject; but the Centre does not negotiate seriously with Nepal on this score. This has turned North Biharis into paupers and hence they migrate to other States. The coal price was equalised by the Central Government since the beginning in such a way that Bihar, which has its own coal reserves, had to pay the same price for coal as Bombay. Even then the Biharis did not whip up sentiments against Marathis, Gujaratis, Bengalis and others employed in the State or doing business in Jamshedpur or Bokaro or working in the mines etc.

I fear that if States like Bihar and UP are treated by the Centre in this fashion then it would not be long before the slogan of independent Bihar is raised by some interested elements. I, therefore, request the PM and Congress leaders to seriously look into the matter of neglect of the backward States, do everything to strengthen the national parties and stop the State governments under Congress rule from succumbing to regionalist slogans as one has witnessed in Maharashtra and Assam.

The author, a veteran Communist leader, was the Union Agriculture Minister in the United Front Governmentat at the Centre (1996-98). He was also the President of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) for sometime.

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