In a week-long campaign starting February 1, the CPIM, providing key outside support to the Congress-led UPA Government, would attempt to focus the Centre’s attention on the ongoing and acute agrarian crisis in many regions of the country.
The party is demanding that Budget 2007-08 should take concrete steps to allocate additional resources to agriculture so that farmers and agricultural workers are able to resolve the crisis. In the last decade, more than a lakh farmers have killed themselves because of, what the CPIM calls, "a series of policies in the neo-liberal which have spelt disaster for the farmers including the import policy of cheap highly subsidized agricultural products," the party said.
The CPIM published a booklet on Thursday that contains the agenda for the seven-day agitation programme. "The increase in the price of fertilizers by over Rs 100 per tonne, increased expenditure on seeds, the increase in rates of electricity and water, the increase in diesel prices and other essential inputs have all combined to push farmers into a never-ending debt-trap," the booklet said.
Giving the example of reduction of import duties on agricultural products like cotton, the party said that the 'minimum support price’ for cotton in 2005-06 was Rs 1760 per quintal as against the production cost of Rs 2585 per quintal. "Clearly, it is necessary for the government to raise the MSP for cotton to ensure procurement and to protect domestic producers from cheap imports by a suitable customs duty," CPIM suggested.
On the UPA’s flagship programme, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), CPIM has given two suggestions: First, stronger intervention and mobilisation for better implementation, and secondly, expansion of Scheme from 200 districts to 400 districts.
Party alleged that though mandated by law under the Scheme, no unemployment allowances are being given to the jobless. It added: "Although the Act has been in operation from February 2006 in most states. The average days of work were only 36 days in the year per job-card holder," the booklet said.
It also added that only 51 per cent of Rs 9.8 thousand crore, allocated to various states till now, has been utilised. "These weaknesses in the implementation are being used by sections of the Central Government to block any expansion of the Scheme and stop further allocation," the party alleged.