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Mainstream, Vol XLVII No 11, February 28, 2009

Forging National Unity for Security and Ending Recession

Monday 2 March 2009, by Chaturanan Mishra


Due to the forthcoming general elections political parties are bound to remain heavily engaged in criticising each other in the days ahead. However, the political situation that has developed of late warrants national unity. This is of urgent necessity.

The first point that must be stressed today is that the country is in dire need of strengthening national security. The current head of Pakistan ruling that neighbouring state has declared that it is in danger of being overtaken by Islamic militants and the Taliban. The Taliban have already established their sway over the Swat region, the Taliban of Pakistan being in full cooperation with their counterparts in Afghanistan. All sources indicate that the Taliban are steadily gaining ground in Afghanistan, and the American and NATO forces are unable to check them. If Pakistan, a nuclear power, unites with the Taliban of Afghanistan as also international gangs of terrorists claiming to be Muslim extremists devoted to Shariah rule and attack Kashmir, Indian security will come under serious threat. That is why what is required is resolute national unity for the defence of Kashmir and India as a whole. Though a communist power, China continues to assist Pakistan at every level and may exploit the prevailing situation to its advantage to wrest Arunachal and Sikkim which time and again they are claiming to be theirs. It is reported that America too is secretly negotiating with the Taliban. The US position on Kashmir too is nuclear and fraught with grave misgivings. Anyway when it comes to the crunch, America would not like to clash with China on such issues. Thus India would have to meet the situation alone. This can be possible only if we forge strong national unity, and this can be done solely on the basis of secularism, as enshrined in our Constitution.

As far as the Indian Muslims are concerned, their religious heads have in a massive rally announced that terrorism is anti-Islam. However, there is no gainsaying that due to the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat 2002 (it is now more transparent than ever before, thanks to the Supreme Court investigations, that high officials and Ministers of the State organised the genocide) there is severe heart-burning in a section of Muslim youth who can be troublesome. Nonetheless most dangerous for secularism are the violent activities of Hindu communalists as revealed in several cases that have come to light in recent times—the attacks on young women in a pub in Mangalore and what they had proclaimed to do on Valentine’s Day. The violent anti-North Indian campaign in Maharashtra is also an integral part of Hindutva. This is a clear manifestation of splitting India on regional lines in the name of ‘jobs for sons of the soil’ as if the soil of India as a whole is alien to them.

Several political parties speak against Hindu communalism but when the time comes for Ministry-making they join the BJP in the exercise and share power with it. Although the Congress has committed many mistakes (like unlocking the temple at Babri Masjid, enacting the Muslim women’s protecton law after the Supreme Court verdict on the Shah Bano case) it can never be accused of having joined any government wherein the BJP was a partner. With all its faults, deficiencies and shortcomings what cannot be refuted is that it remains the largest secular organisation in the country. Long years of one-party rule, monumental corruption and anti-poor measures on the part of its governments at the Centre and the States have eroded its base in large parts of India and it has been replaced in many areas by regional parties based on caste or individual personalities. These phenomena have weakened the Centre. But there can be no doubt that all have to unite for the defence and security of the country, and this message needs to be conveyed in election meetings across our landmass.

The other major problem of the current scenario is the global recession. The cause of this recession happens to be the neo-liberal policies based on the Washington Consensus, prescribed by the IMF and World Bank. In India the Congress Government first accepted these policies in the early nineties and the NDA Government headed by Atal Behari Vajpayee embraced the same policies in the late nineties. The question now is: how do we tackle recession which has rendered half-a-million Indian workers unemployed and, as revealed by Business Standard, inflicted heavy losses on all the big private companies? These companies are headed by the very persons who wholeheartedly supported the so-called reforms outlined by the Washington Consensus and the same people are now getting financial help from the national exchequer. Despite this development I differ with those who say the economic policies of both the NDA and Congress are identical. Yes, both support the prevailing capitalist system; but the Congress has also shown that it leans towards the people in general, that is, the aam aadmi—it has established its credentials on this score by passing the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. According to the ILO, India is the only country in the world to have such a law.

We can find the pontive features of the UPA (led by the Congress) by comparing its achievements with those during the rule of the NDA (led by the BJP).

UPA Rule 8.6% 4.6% 4.8%
NDA Rule 5.8% 4.6% 5.9%

Allocation of Funds Concerning People (crore rupees)

Agriculture 16,439 36,716
Rural Employment 29,894 84,598
Roads 43,517 101,748
Housing 22,841 47,858
Education 28,024 96,541
Health 24,162 51,124
Power 60,085 148,631
Railways 54,328 125,095

There is widespread demand throughout the world for reforming the present capitalist system so as to preclude the recurrence of recession. As I understand, the current recession can end only if there is inclusive growth across the globe resulting in the creation of purchasing power for the masses of people enabling them to purchase the available goods. Inclusive growth means employment, housing, medical help, pension and social security, education, maternity benefit, assistance to small farmers in particular so that they can enhance their productivity, development of agriculture, animal husbandry, fishing etc.

During the election campaign mass conscious-ness needs to be created so as to build national unity for implementing, in a time-bound manner a programme of inclusive growth adopted by the Congress Government through the Planning Commission. The national Budget too needs to be framed accordingly.

However, as has been stated in the foregoing, this recession is global and hence what is needed is a global action plan for inclusive growth. It is imperative for the UNO to act in that direction. India should lead the non-aligned movement to launch a worldwide campaign to see the IMF, World Bank, WTO amend their regulations and the foreign exchange rules are modified. There should be a world tax on multinationals, the quantum of which has to be fixed by the UNO, to finance this programme in the poverty-stricken countries. Needless to emphasise, such a campaign warrants a global movement and actions on the street on the part of the international trade unions, the World Social Forum, and Communist and Socialist Parties across the continents.

The author, who was the Union Agriculture Minister in the United Front Government at the Centre (1996-98), functioned as the AITUC President for several years.

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