The Central Executive Committee of the All India Democratic Women's Association strongly condemns the statement of the Union Minister for Food and Agriculture, Mr. Sharad Pawar, that had the decision of the UPA Government to cut the quotas and increase PDS foodgrain issue prices been implemented, the import of wheat that has now been made necessary in order to check rising domestic prices could have been avoided. This is the worst kind of prevarication since the rising prices of wheat and other cereals is directly related to the disastrous agricultural policies being implemented by the Central Govt.
At a time when the per capita consumption of foodgrains has declined to levels that existed in pre-independence India, and there is widespread evidence of increasing malnourishment among a wider section of the population it is shameful and intolerable that the UPA Government wants to save Rs 4500 crores by cutting the entitlement of BPL and Antyodaya families by 5 kgs and APL quotas by 15 kgs (45%), and by increasing APL prices by more than 10%. While this highly retrograde and cruel move was stalled last month by the strong protest by the Left, Shri Pawar is making no secret of his determination to implement it at a later date. This will mean nothing less than forcing the hungry to starve.
From a situation where buffer stocks were overflowing in government godowns, and the central government actually exported wheat at prices lower than BPL rates undre the NDA Government, there is now a sudden shortage of a staple such as wheat. While the need of the hour is to make available cheap food to all those who need it through a universalized PDS, the government is seeking to cut back on subsidies that benefit the majority of the people while it continues to offer all kinds of tax bonanzas to the rich.
The CEC notes that in many parts of the country, adequate kerosene is not available in fair price shops, and women are forced to buy it on the open market at rates as high as Rs 25 to 30 per litre. On the other hand, there is a massive blackmarketing of kerosene due to its diversion for adulteration of petrol and diesel. The authorities choose conveniently to turn a blind eye to this. Gas cylinders are also in short supply. The CEC demands that adequate kerosene be supplied through the PDS; that no further increases in kerosene and LPG prices be resorted to; and that strict action be taken against shop owners and officials responsible for the diversion and blackmarketing of kerosene.
The AIDWA warns of the great danger of the food security system being dismantled completely with disastrous implications for women and all marginalized and oppressed sections of society. It demands that instead of attacking subsidies that benefit the majority of the people, the government should stop handing out tax reliefs to the rich and corporate sector. The Central Government must substantially increase allocations for food subsidy in the forthcoming Union Budget so as to provide for a universalized PDS with increased entitlements at current BPL prices. It resolves to launch big struggles to protect the food security of the women in the country.
ON IMPLEMENTATION OF NATIONAL RURAL EMPLOYMENT GURANTEE ACT
The CEC of AIDWA welcomes the announcement of the Central Government to begin implementation of the NREGA in 200 districts from the 2nd of February 2006. The Act, that is the result of a long struggle by the Left and progressive forces including our organisation, will help to alleviate the massive crisis in rural employment arising out of implementation of neo-liberal policies. It could be particularly beneficial for impoverished rural women whose workdays are regularly decreasing making them more vulnerable and insecure than ever.
The Central and State governments must widely disseminate all relevant information about the Act in all the regional languages, and ensure registration of applicants and the issue of job cards. The State governments must also envisage proposed works that include work suitable for women. Any effort to limit beneficiaries to BPL families has to be immediately stopped.
The large scale migration that is taking place because of lack of employment has also to be kept in mind when job-seekers are being registered. The governments concerned must take necessary measures to address this issue.
The CEC calls upon all its units in the designated 200 districts to ensure that the Act is meaningfully implemented to benefit women as a priority. It demands that State governments immediately put in place the necessary Employment Guarantee Schemes and appoint the District Coordinators and Project Officers, and the State Employment Council, as per the provisions of the Act. It also demands that the Central Government release the necessary funds for smooth implementation.
DEMAND FOR INTERVENTION IN KERALA ICECREAM PARLOUR CASE
The recent verdict by the Kozhikode Sessions Court acquitting all the accused in the infamous Kozhikode "Ice Cream Parlour Case" sex scandal in which a former Minister of the United Democratic Front Government was involved, has shown how political leaders of some parties and the rich and powerful have made a mockery of the judicial system.
The UDF Government has all along tried to protect the accused which had forced the High Court to intervene and appoint a new Public Prosecutor but unfortunately the new PP also seems to have sided with the accused.
This combined with inordinate delays have led to a situation in which all the witnesses including the four girls who had allegedly suffered at the hands of the accused turned hostile. As a result all the 16 accused in the case were acquitted.
The media have shown in graphic details, the new houses and cars and luxuries acquired by some of the witnesses, including the prime witness and victim Rajeena.
The CEC of AIDWA demands that a CBI enquiry be instituted to uncover the truth of the matter. The State Government must file an immediate appeal in the High Court of Kerala.