Waiver wont end indebtedness: Bardhan

This was only a one-time waiver and farmers would fall back into debt Left parties would oppose move to increase working hours from 8 to 10 THRISSUR: Communist Party of India (CPI) general secretary A.B. Bardhan said on Saturday that the loan waiver scheme announced by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in his budget speech on Friday was no solution to farmers' indebtedness. "For four years, you saw the farmers dying. For four years, you watched them fall deeper and deeper into indebtedness and committing suicide in States like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala. And, in the fifth year, with the elections coming, you hand out some sops. Then again, it is a one-time waiver. But what happens tomorrow? They will be thrown from one round of indebtedness to another,' Mr. Bardhan said, inaugurating the four-day State conference of the CPI here. Beneficiaries The CPI leader also questioned the government's claim about the number of farmers who would benefit and pointed out that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was on record that more than half the farmers in the country were dependent on money-lenders for their credit needs. The government's loan waiver offer would not touch such loans. If the government was sincere about the farm debt crisis, it should have announced the formation of a Debt Relief Commission and pegged the interest rate on farm loans at 4 per cent as demanded by the Left parties when the budget was in the making, he said. Mr. Bardhan said the CPI and other Left parties would oppose the proposal in the Economic Survey to increase working hours from eight to ten. They would wage a battle to thwart attempts to curtail the rights won by the working class over 150 years ago through a long struggle. He also pointed out that the Finance Minister did not respond to the Left's plea for measures to universalise the public distribution system. He welcomed the decision to extend the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to all the districts in the country, but regretted that only Rs.16,000 crores was earmarked for its implementation. This would not be sufficient to provide 100 days' employment to all the eligible persons in the rural areas or to give them wages as envisaged in the NREG Act. The failure to make adequate funds available clearly showed that the government was not interested in implementing the scheme in letter and in spirit, Mr. Bardhan said. The BJP was trying its best to utilise the discontent in the minds of the people over a host of issues, including the sharp increase in the prices of essentials, he said. The Congress seemed to be offering power to the BJP on a platter, with its ill-conceived policies and failure to come out with people-friendly measures. On its part, the Left was committed to keeping the BJP out of power and wanted all the Left and secular parties to come together on a common platform on the basis of a clear pro-people programme. What emerged from the exercise should not be a Third Front where parties came together for electoral purposes, but a real third alternative to the Congress and the BJP, he said.