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Left lays out road map for UPA Govt

Left parties asked the ruling coalition not to go ahead with FDI in retail sector and reorient the focus of foreign policy.

india Updated: Jun 15, 2006 23:08 IST

Charting a roadmap for the UPA Government, Left parties on Thursday asked the ruling coalition not to go ahead with FDI in retail sector, reorient the focus of foreign policy and take prompt steps to bring bills for women's reservation in legislatures and forest land rights of agricultural labourers.

In their nine-page note submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, the four parties supporting the Government from outside said the UPA- Left-UPA Coordination Committee should not remain a "mere forum for talking out issues" but produce concrete results.

The note, which analyses the performance of the Government in the last two years, asks the Centre to take "immediate steps" on several issues, ranging from combating communal violence to hiking investment in agriculture, check hoarding of food grains, tabling bills on Women's Reservation, granting forest land rights to tribals and social security for agricultural workers.

It also warns the Government against allowing foreign investment in retail trade and allow the Airports Authority of India to "modernise the existing airports". On greenfield airports, the note however envisages joint ventures with the involvement of the private sector.

Observing that they had submitted 19 notes on various policy matters for Government's consideration since the inception of the Coordination Committee, the CPI(M), CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc said experience had shown that discussions on these issues have "generally not led to any satisfactory conclusion".

"Only in a few instances have the discussions produced results and a common understanding. The Left parties are concerned that the Coordination Committee becomes merely a forum for talking out issues without producing any concrete results", it said.

Seeking a considered response from the UPA side on the issues raised in the note, the parties asked the Government to chart out a path of socio-economic development in line with the Common Minimum Programme, which would benefit all sections, especially the working people and the weaker sections.

On the communal situation, they sought prompt intervention and vigilance to ensure that communal activities are checked. "Central intervention is required to check attacks on minorities in the states where they occur. Gujarat has to be constantly monitored to ensure that the constitutional provisions and laws are enforced".

Regarding the agrarian situation, the Left wanted stepping up of public investment in the sector, implementation of the recommendations of the National Commission for Farmers, establishing a price stabilisation fund and lowering interests on farmers' loans, besides completing irrigation projects.

They also sought strengthening of the public distribution system on an urgent basis and issuance of BPL cards to all those who fall within the criteria instead of having a quota system.

Besides stern measures to check hoarding of food grains and essential commodities, the parties said the forward trading system which facilitates hoarding should be abolished. The consumer price index should be revised to better reflect the prices of commodities consumed by working people.

The Left also wanted the Centre to closely monitor the implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in 200 districts and take steps to increase coverage on an annual basis. Minor irrigation works in SC/ST dominated areas and programmes to endow landless families with land as promised in the CMP be taken up on priority basis.

The interest rate on Employees Provident Fund should not be reduced any further, the note said, adding that trade unions should be consulted before any legislation was taken up concerning lay out laws.

The Right to Education Bill to enable universalisation of access to quality basic education should be adopted without delay, it said, adding that backlog of SC/ST employment vacancies be filled up in a time-bound manner and "concrete steps for expansion of educational and employment opportunities for Muslims minorities also need to be taken".

"While attracting foreign investment, the Government should not allow foreign companies in sectors like retail trade which has adverse implications for existing employment and livelihood of millions of people," the note said.

It said that in line with the CMP commitment of not privatising profit-making PSUs, the AAI "should be entrusted with the task of modernising the existing airports. Greenfield airports can be developed through joint ventures with the involvement of private sector".

The Left parties observed that the Government had in practice "gone ahead with allowing FDI in certain vital sectors where not only are the benefits of high technology or exports elusive but which would also have a debilitating impact on domestic employment and asset creation".

Besides allowing FDI in retail trade in the single brand category, Government "seems keen on allowing foreign banks to takeover Indian private banks and, to facilitate this, it wants to do away with the ten per cent cap on voting rights in the Banking Regulation Act".

"Opening up of such sensitive sectors of the economy where restrictions have been retained till date must not be done", the Left parties warned and detailed their concerns over privatisation of pension fund and the mining sector, which had led to forcible displacement of tribals like in Kalinganagar area of Orissa.

Maintaining that strategic partnership with the United States was "not conducive for an independent foreign policy and preserving our strategic autonomy", the Left parties said it should be "reoriented so that we have a clear-cut independent foreign policy in keeping with the CMP".

"The UPA Government's foreign policy faces serious distortions because of the obsessive drive to somehow harmonise positions on regional and global issues with the US global strategy", it said, adding it ran counter to the CMP.

It listed various steps the Government had taken which, according to the parties, continued with the policy thrust of the erstwhile NDA Government. They said India had "lost its voice as a champion of disarmament. India takes no interest in the solidarity of developing countries" or its cooperation in South Asia or among the Indian Ocean rim nations.

First Published: Jun 15, 2006 21:03 IST