M A I N   N E W S

Broad consensus on CMP
Acceptable, but not in writing, says Left
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel and Laloo Prasad Yadav at a UPA meeting in the Capital
Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel and Laloo Prasad Yadav at a UPA meeting in the Capital on Wednesday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

New Delhi, May 26
The Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the new United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, which was being fine-tuned till late tonight, has strived to incorporate the concerns of all its members by finding a middle ground on issues like economic reforms and disinvestment.

The shared concerns of the UPA partners on issues like promotion and protection of the agriculture sector and farmers, de-saffronisation of education field,the repeal of POTA and enactment of a comprehensive law on communal violence, have been adequately reflected in the 23-page draft CMP document discussed for over five hours at a specially convened UPA meeting today.

It has promised to look into regional imbalances by providng special economic packages for backward areas. The Telegana Rashtriya Samiti has also been placated with the document stating that the government will consider the demand for the formation of a Telegana state, but has played it safe by adding that it will be done “at an appropriate time after due consultations and consensus.”

The Left parties’ concerns on labour laws have been addressed with the draft CMP stating categorically that the UPA is rejecting the idea of automatic hire and fire. In a concession to the industry, it has recognised the need for greater flexibility on labour policy, stating that the UPA will first consult industry and trade unions before coming up with specific proposals. Laws other than the Industrial Disputes Act, it said, will be re-examined and procedures streamlined.

According to CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, there was broad consensus on the document, which will be formally released tomorrow. The meeting also elected Congress President Sonia Gandhi as the Chairperson of the UPA.

Despite objections from RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav, the draft has reiterated that the UPA will take the lead to introduce legislation for one-third reservations for women in legislatures.

As explained by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his first press conference, the draft document has upheld its commitment to “economic reforms with a human face”. It reiterated that profit-making companies will not be privatised and that companies like ONGC, Indian Oil, HPCL, BPCL, GAIL, SAIL, NTPC and BHEL will be retained in the public sector. However, they will be allowed to raise resources from the capital market. “Further reforms are needed and will be carried out in agriculture, industry and services,” says the draft document.

As for the contentious issue of industrial sickness, the CMP has said while efforts would be made to revive such companies, the chronically loss- making companies would either be sold off or closed. Keeping in view the senstivities of the Left parties, the document has held out an assurance that in such cases workers would be given their legitimate dues and compensation.

The UPA government has committed itself to eliminating the revenue deficit of the Centre by 2009 while stating that all subsidies will be targeted sharply at the poor and the needy like small and marginal farmers, farm labour and the urban poor. A detailed roadmap for accomplishing this is to be unveiled in Parliament in 90 days.

While reiterating the UPA government’s commitment to the orderly development and functioning of capital markets, the dcoument has promised that financial markets will be deepened. The draft states that misuse of double taxation agreements will be stopped, interests of small investors protected while SEBI will be further strengthened. It has also promised strict action against market manipulators and those who deliberately engineer market panic.

The document has promsied that the government will pursue policies to ensure that the economy grows at least 7 to 8 per cent per year in a sustained manner. Keeping in view the election promises held out by all political parties on reducing unemployment, the CMP has said the UPA government will immediately enact a National Employment Guarantee Act to provide a legal guarantee for at least 100 days of employment for at least one able-bodied person in every rural household.

In addition, the document has promised to work out,within the next three months, a comprehensive medium-term strategy for food and nutrition security while reiterating its commitment to strengthening the public distribution system.

On the infrastructure front, the draft CMP maintains it will review the Electricity Act in view of the concerns expressed by the states, stating that the mandatory date of June 10,2004, for unbundling and replacing the state electricity boards will be extended.

R. Suryamurthy adds: The Left parties will endorse the CMP tomorrow but not sign it, as it essentially is a document of the UPA. “Since we are not part of the UPA, the need for a coordination mechanism arises. We are supporting the ruling alliance from outside. We will propose to the UPA that there should be a coordination mechanism to implement the CMP, on the basis of which we will support the final document,” Mr Karat said.

Releasing the CPM’s suggestions on the CMP, on which the party has held several rounds of discussions with the Congress, Karat said: “As we have a stake in getting the provisions of the CMP implemented, the Left parties will like to have a mechanism or a coordination committee with the UPA.”

He, however, said the shape of such a coordination committee would be finalised after discussions with the Congress and the UPA. Describing the draft CMP as an “acceptable document that has a scope for further discussions for improvement”, he said, “we are confident that the CMP, in its final shape, will be broadly acceptable to us.”

Karat said there could be certain issues mentioned in the CMP like formation of new states or WTO issues, which the CPM has been opposed to.

“We are conscious that there are over two dozen parties that have to work together. We will reserve some differences for the later period. But that does not stop us from showing our opposition on certain issues,” he said.

He said the CPM had sent a note focussing on six major areas to the Congress. The areas were defence of secularism, reversing of communalisation process, strengthening of the public distribution system, restructuring of Centre-state relations, making of independent foreign policy and restoration of democratic rights of the people.

Mr Karat clarified that the Left parties would support the final CMP but might not agree to all points in it. “We cannot be a party to the demand for a separate Telangana state,” he said, citing one of the areas of difference with the UPA.

To CPM suggestions on the CMP, Karat said besides the economic issues, a major thrust needed to be given on “restructuring” of the Centre-state relations in the backdrop of Sarkaria Commission’s recommendations.

Observing that the Congress had earlier “not bothered” about Centre-state relations, he said: “Several states are in dire financial straits and immediate steps should be taken to provide some relief like enhancing the states’ share of Central tax revenue, substantial debt relief or reduction of interest on loans.”

The CPM leader also wanted a “categoric assertion” that there would be no privatisation of profit-making PSUs, besides revamping of the public distribution system (PDS) and food security.

He said the targeted PDS, started during the Narasimha Rao government, “goes against the poor and has been used to exclude them from the PDS net. A person owning a bicycle has been left out. The system should be universal and not targeted.”

Karat welcomed the draft CMP proposal of having a law on employment guarantee to provide employment of 100 days and said till the law was enacted, schemes like Food for Work programmes should be implemented.

On foreign policy, he said the policy thrust in the draft CMP “does not even conform to the formulations made in the Congress manifesto. The singling out of the USA for strategic engagement is not acceptable and contradicts the formulation about having an ‘independent’ foreign policy.”

The other Left parties — CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc — have also given their suggestions on the draft.


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