The budget for 2001-02 has been tabled in Parliament at a time when the economy is in the doldrums under the advances of globalisation, indicated by the continuous fall in the Sensex in the stock-exchange, when the deadline for complying with the WTO guidelines is coming closer and at a time when capitalism in India and all over the world is facing a general and unprecedented crisis.
The 'welfare benefits' of the past have now become outmoded and what are called 'efficient' and 'productive' budgets are the order of the day. Investments and subsidies in welfare activity such as in health and education are being withdrawn without hesitation whereas defence expenditure is increased.
Duties on cars have been reduced to the benefit of the well-to-do classes while items such as postal charges have been enhanced to the detriment of the poor. Interest rates on small savings schemes have been further lowered and this is a clear indicator that they will be brought into conformity with the internationally prevalent rates.
The budget clearly indicates that the government is pushing forward WTO and World Bank dictates under the garb of the so-called 'economic reforms'. The thrust of the budget is to expand the network of taxes and to bring more sectors under its control. While surcharges on corporate taxes have been ended, the dividend tax has been lowered by 10%, bringing relief to the corporate sector, the rate of interest on small savings and deposits in Provident Funds have been lowered which is an attack on the common man. Whereas taxes have been reduced on soft drinks and tomato ketchup they have been enhanced on the items of consumption of the poor such as match boxes. Furthermore, 10% of jobs in government are to be phased out which will lead to further unemployment. Government controls on stocks and trading in foodgrains have been lifted. Price controls on drugs are to be phased out. Foreign investment institutions have been allowed to hold equity in Indian firms up to 49%. Amendments to the Industrial Disputes Act are also underway. The necessary official permission for industrial closures which was required for all industries employing 100 or more workers will now only be necessary for those employing more than 1000 workers. This constitutes a severe attack on the job security of the working class. In the recent past stress had been laid on the growth of small scale industry but now we find that 14 items have been dereserved from this sector so that this area is being opened up for big capital. An illusionary 7% growth rate has been targeted: but the reality is that while the Sensex rose by 177 points on the day the budget was tabled it dropped 177 points and a further 68 points within a few days, and it continues to fall sharply even after the intervention and assurances of the Finance Minister himself.
A fatwa was issued by the Taliban religious leader Mullah Omar directing the destruction of the historic images of Buddha. The news spread to the world outside and the move was criticised by almost the entire civilised world. Amongst the various responses and reactions which were expressed from all over the globe the most dubious, amazing and contradictory was the one put forth by the Hindu fundamentalists in India : the RSS, BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal combine. The Indian Prime Minister from the Bharatiya Janata Party contributed his own piece of mockery when he exclaimed that the destruction of the Buddhist images by the Taliban represented the humiliation of all religions.
Amazing! These are the same forces which not only connived in the demolition of the historic mosque known as the Babari Masjid but were instrumental in destroying it. In the aftermath of the demolition when communal riots broke out between Hindus and Muslims in place of repenting supported it and pleaded for the cause. Even their top leaders advocated and praised the event and claimed that it had vindicated the 'national honour'. Before the demolition the BJP government of the state of Uttar Pradesh had given assurances to the Supreme Court and to the country that it would protect the mosque but they dishonoured their pledge. The historical monument was demolished by these fanatic forces.
Now it is the same forces who criticise the 'intolerance' of the Taliban, who are cursing it for its 'fundamentalism'. Intolerance was correct when it was being exercised by the Hindu fundamentalists - the demolition of religious places belonging to the minority community was a 'pious cause' but the same is wrong, unjustified and impious when it is done by the Taliban. It is here that one can locate the true colours of the double-faceted fascists, the sworn enemies of religious tolerance and secularism.
At the same time let us not forget those forces which indirectly and directly helped to create the Taliban: the Soviet Union of the period of Brezhnev and the United States of America.
The forces of darkness, of medieval barbarism, will have to be defeated through the struggles by the democratic forces in order to create a tolerant, peaceful and secular society.
The government is pushing forward disinvestment in the public sector as the central issue in its economic policy. The importance of disinvestment may be adjudged by the fact that there is an independent berth in the Union Cabinet allotted to the disinvestment ministry. This Ministry is at work around the clock to elaborate the ways and means by which there shall be zero public investment. All the major profit-making plants are to be sold off at throw-away prices to private companies. Under conditions of ‘Nehruvian Socialism’ it was necessary to establish a public sector as private capital was financially not in a position to establish an heavy industrial base by itself to further capitalist growth in India. Public money was the only resort for the creation of such infrastructure in the country and so the public sector was given prime importance. Now that our bourgeoisie is backed by the strength of global capital the question of investment is no longer a problem so that it is possible to jettison ‘Nehruvian Socialism’ and ‘disinvestment’ has become the battle-cry of our capitalists and their government. These capitalists are now making an all - out effort to take possession of public enterprises.
But the disinvestment programme shall certainly meet with resistance from those who are affected by the privatisation of the public sector. The workers and employees of the affected plants are up in arms. The first major step in this direction has been the sale of the government aluminium enterprise BALCO at ridiculously low prices to private hands. There has been nation-wide criticism of this sale, the employees of the plant have gone on strike against the privatisation of BALCO. The strike is complete and is supported by a wide section of the local population. In a fix the government went to the Supreme Court in order to restore normalcy. The judges passed orders from their residences as the vacations were on but to no avail. The workers are determined and if the resistance continues it will be a jolt for the policy of disinvestment. The enterprise has already incurred a loss of Rs. 500 crores as a result of the strike and the financial crisis will deepen with each passing day. The government may find that selling off the public enterprises to private hands and the disinvestment of Rs. 12,000 crores as they plan will not be so easy. Perhaps the government has realised this for whereas the Finance Minister on March 1, 2001 at a meeting of the FICCI strongly stated that disinvestment would not be halted under any circumstance now he has nothing to say on the developments at BALCO. he revolutionary movement and its inability to cope with the requirements of the present day working class struggle. The sectarianism of our revolutionaries and their inability to appreciate the potential of the industrial working class has prevented the development of a broad mass workers' party which might respond to the class struggles and convert them into the red battles of the conscious proletariat against its enemies.
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