Recent developments in the country have raised basic but important questions : whom does the country belong to? The economic policy and the political atmosphere created by the Government should be in the interest of which section of the people? The obvious answer to both questions : all sections of the country’s people. Sixty per cent of the population of the country is still engaged in agriculture. Organised labour is also an important section, employed mainly by the Government and the corporate sector. Unfortunately after the 1991 reforms, the whole emphasis has shifted to the corporate sector, foreign companies and foreign investments. The agricultural sector has been ignored. If the same situation prevails, after about 20 years there will be a terrible food shortage in the country as the population will grow, may be at a slower rate — but it will grow. And there will not be enough food to eat. No development or no amount of it can help a country if it cannot feed its own population. When Jawaharlal Nehru was alive, the Congress party passed a resolution in Avadi in Madras, Tamil Nadu, which said that national policies should foster a socialist pattern of society.
In 1991, Manmohan Singh was the Finance Minister and he said that these policies have not helped the people and he totally reversed the policies. His main argument was that under the licensing regime, a few people cornered all the licenses and later sold the licenses at a higher price to others, which is unfair. If the license system is dismantled, a lot of people can open industries or whatever they want to, and there will be good competition, prices will become lower and the people will benefit. In the last 21 years, what has happened? Inflation is high; the competition has really not worked. In the sectors where it has worked like electronics, telecommunication, it is because of technology and not because of Government policies. If the Information Technology (IT) companies have done well, it is because of technology, because of the time difference, and the cost difference between the United States of America and India.
Wherever Government is involved, no real progress or no real change has come about in the pre-1991 and the post-1991 situation. On the other hand, in the case of 2G spectrum and coal, the Government is now saying that they have ‘allocated’ the spectrum and ‘allocated’ the coal blocks. ‘Allocation’ is another word for license and they have used a new word. In other words they allocated the 2G spectrum to their favourite people and they have allocated the coal blocks to their favourite people.
Wherever Government is involved, no real progress or no real change has come about in the pre-1991 and the post-1991 situation. On the other hand, in the case of 2G spectrum and coal, the Government is now saying that they have ‘allocated’ the spectrum and ‘allocated’ the coal blocks. ‘Allocation’ is another word for license and they have used a new word. In other words they allocated the 2G spectrum to their favourite people and they have allocated the coal blocks to their favourite people. What have they done? In 2G spectrum case, one person has bought a coal block at price “X” and within one month or less than a month, they have sold it for 10X. The person providing the service to the people is a person who has bought it at 10X. The argument of Kapil Sibal is that had the Government sold the licenses at a higher price, the telephone services would have been costly falls flat on the face. The person who is providing the service has his cost at 10X. Who has made the money between X and 10X? The middle men, the person to whom you allocated the spectrum. Who gets the share of the money, it is his problem. Although the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has said that if he could sell it for 10X, then you will not get the money. Obviously, there is a difference between 10X and X.
Kapil Sibal and Chidambaram go on arguing day in and day out that the Government has not lost any money. What does it mean? Even a semi-educated person can understand that if you have sold a thing at a certain price, and it can be sold at a higher price then there will be loss. The Supreme Court has recently given a judgement that auction is not the only way to discover a fair price. The Supreme Court has not said that you can give away coal or spectrum to your nephew, to your cousin, to somebody who has the same surname, to anybody who is your favourite. No! No! No! Not at all. All they have said is that there will be a fair and transparent way, auction is one of the ways but there can be another way. That does not mean that the Supreme Court has endorsed what you have done.
Now the Government has started attacking the CAG. Why ? Because the CAG has worked out that giving these coal blocks had resulted in too much loss. Chidambaram has said that no loss has taken place because coal has not yet come out of the ground and it is still in the ground. It is correct. Loss has not yet taken place. But you have already sold the right to make profit to the private party. Whenever coal is taken out, the profit will go to the private party and not to the Government. It is like selling the Ashoka Hotel for 10 crores of rupees instead of 1000 crores of rupees. And then you say that Government has made no loss and like the private party which has not yet taken coal out of the ground, nobody has come to stay in the hotel. You have already sold the property and whenever somebody stays in the hotel, he will make the money and not the Government. It is very important to understand that when CAG talks of loss, what it means is that we have lost the profit that we could have made. It is loss of profit. It is not a notional loss, it is a real loss. Because we have seen in the 2G spectrum that one company has sold the rights within a week at ten times the price. We have seen in coal blocks that the person who has taken the block has drawn money from the bank and made a public issue that he has bought his own place, he has bought at government’s cost, at banks cost.
Everybody is making merry. Time is to go back to the Avadi resolution, to the Congress which said that you must make a fair society on a socialistic pattern, the poor must be looked after, the trade and business should be there. Nobody has said – and neither did the Avadi resolution say that the corporate sector should be closed, or the private sector should not have any rights. All they said is that the poor must be looked after, the weaker section has to be looked after, the public sector should be strengthened. There is a large window that has been opened for the private sector. It can exploit and do its own business. One good measure that the Government took was NREGA, now renamed MGNREGA _ 100 days jobs for the poorest families. How it is being run, and how much corruption riddles it is a different matter. But the move is correct. Now whatever money you allocated annually to MGNREGA, let us say Rs. 40 thousand crores, that money must come from the corporate sector. The richest people should pay for the poorest people. The government should increase corporate tax by 5 per cent.
Take the money from the richest and pay to the poor. This Government will never do it because they feel that the share market will go down. America will tell them, why are you dashing the corporate sector. Now is it interest of the poor in this country and the interest of farmers in this country that should be taken care of first or is it the happiness of the American administration which comes first ? That is the issue before us today. You passed the nuclear liability bill to make America happy; FDI in retail you opened to make America happy. What happens to the poor of this country? For instance, there is no dividend tax; if the owner of a company declares a dividend and he gets the dividend money, on that he has to pay no tax. Who pays the tax? The company pays the tax. To have a level playing field, the minimum that should be done is that the employees of the companies should be exempted from paying tax. All the employees, whatever tax is entailed, the company should pay. If the company can pay tax for the owner, then they can certainly pay tax for the employees. If the poor employees are paying tax, they have a fixed income, inflation is going up, they do not know how to make both ends meet. The owner is getting dividend without having to pay tax. Are we living in a fair and just society? Once again, the basic questions arises – and the next elections will be on this issue _ whom does the country belong to? Does the country belong to a handful of business houses or the country belongs to crores of farmers and labourers who are working in the fields and factories? That is a basic issue today. The issue is not of 1 lakh 80 thousand or 1 lakh 70 thousand, the issue is of fairness, fair play, governance.
The governments are getting elected by the votes of the poor and they are serving the rich. How long will this democracy run? We have become like many other countries in the world _ I don’t want to name them _ where there is democracy, there is voting, but there is no freedom. In India too, we are reaching a stage where all freedom will be gone. Tell me what the common men can do when he can see the coal blocks being looted, where he can see the 2G spectrum being looted, where he can see corruption rampant. A movement like Anna Hazare’s movement has become popular not because of Anna Hazare suddenly becoming a Gandhian. He was always a Gandhian. The movement has become big because he has said and put his finger on the pulse of the people. The people are acutely feeling the pinch today and Anna Hazare has articulated the pain of that pinch and people have responded to him and feel that he is so right. We need to do something visible to show to people that we can control corruption, we can punish the corrupt, we can stop wrong doing. Profit making is okay. Profiteering is not okay. In coal blocks, in the 2G spectrum, and other items, there has been profiteering, shameless profiteering. This can’t go on. I know the word ‘socialism’. In 1991, Manmohan Singhji made fun of socialism as if Jawahar Lal Nehru and Indira Gandhi didn’t have the interest of the country at heart and in their mind. We must not forget the big houses like Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis are all products of the socialism regime. In the so called competitive or capitalist system, what have you produced? Nothing. And you must understand one more thing : you need not ‘tailor make’ policies for the corporate sector. The corporate sector by its character, its personality will find a way out, even in a dictatorship, even in a communist regime, or in a socialist regime, whatever they do they will prosper, wherever. There is a Hindi word “Baniyas”, they know their way out. Whatever the law, whatever the rule, they will find a way round it or out of it and make their living. So you need not make laws to suit the Baniya community or the corporate sector. Laws should be made in the overall interest of the country, the majority in the country. Out of that, the corporate sector will get its due share. They will make money. They may not make the kind of money they want to make but they will make fair money and they should be satisfied and we should be satisfied.
Congress Forgets its Own Resolution
The session held at Avadi in Tamil Nadu in 1955 is considered to be one of the most historic sessions of the Congress. It was at this session, that for the first time, the party’s avowed objective of a ‘Cooperative Commonwealth’ was extended to include “planning with a view to establishing a socialist pattern of society”. The new expressions were coined by Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad. The resolution passed in this regard read as under:
“In order to realize the object of the Congress laid down in Article I of the Congress Constitution and to further the objectives stated in the Preamble and Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution of India, planning should take place with a view to the establishment of a socialistic pattern of society, where the principal means of production are under social ownership or control, production is progressively speeded up and there is equitable distribution of national wealth”.
The Indian National Congress passed the Avadi Resolution in 1955 giving the aims and objectives of the kind of society to be built and what needed to be done. Under Jawaharlal Nehru’s leadership, the Indian National Congress accepted the ideal of a socialist pattern of society. Nehru believed that socialism was the panacea of all human ills. It was only through socialism that poverty, unemployment and economic miseries could be removed. Socialism was a means to change the political and social structure. It promised ‘social ownership of control’ of ‘the principle means of production’ and equitable distribution of national wealth.
The following leaders also approved the resolution: U.N. Dhebar, Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant, Morarji Desai, Khandubhai Desai, S.N. Agarwal, Devkinandan Narayan and Balwantrai Mehta, Syed Mehmood, Harekrushna Mahatab, Dr. K.N. Katju, Gulzari Lal Nanda and Lal Bahadur Shastri.