What food security?
The food security bill recently tabled in Parliament is the focus of CPM journal Peoples Democracy this week. Senior CPM leader Brinda Karat says in an article that the bill will provide legal sanction to the very policies that have led to widespread hunger and malnutrition.
In an article titled Pushing reforms on the back of hunger,she identifies narrow targeting,conditional entitlements,excessive centralisation and the violation of states rights as some of the bills problems. She calls it a classic example of absurd targeting levels and the social cruelty embedded in such a targeted framework.
For instance,she says,the present bill eliminates the Antyodaya category,carved out from the BPL population,which was getting 35 kg of rice at Rs 2 a kilo. Some 2.5 crore Antyodaya families will now have to pay Re 1 a kilo more for rice,which has been pegged at Rs 3 a kilo in the new bill. This also affects states that currently give rice at Rs 2 a kilo,she says. Karat also picks on what she calls absurdities in definitions of starvation and the fact that the bill has no provision for consulting states even as far as cost sharing is concerned. Responding to the Congress spin that this is Sonia Gandhis pet bill,she says: If indeed it is so,it only shows that… the UPA chairperson is very much in sync with the neo-liberal framework of the Manmohan Singh government,says Karat.
Boosting Big Pharma
Another article in Peoples Democracy picks holes in the draft National Pricing Pharmaceutical Policy,which was circulated recently.
The proposed policy,it says,starts with the radical and welcome proposal that all drugs in the national essential drug list be brought under price control,but hides a much more nefarious design that seeks to legitimise the rampant practice of profiteering in the pharmaceutical market.
It does so by proposing that henceforth prices of medicines shall be fixed based on market based criteria. Till now,drug prices were fixed by using a cost plus formula. The price of the finished product sold in the market was fixed by calculating the cost of manufacturing and then by placing a ceiling on the post-manufacturing expense. The post manufacturing expense (MAPE) allowed included the profit for the company as per the 1995 DPCO,it stands at 100 per cent, it says.
The draft policy argues that the Indian economy is today largely market-driven and administered prices exist only in a few areas like petroleum and procurement prices of food grains. In the case of manufactured products,the draft policy states that prices are determined by market forces and notes that the pharmaceutical industry is a one lakh crore industry,of which about Rs 48,200 crore is the domestic market. Thus the cat is finally out of the bag! What is important for the policy is to safeguard the interests of a one lakh crore rupees industry,not of lakhs of people who die or are pushed below the poverty line because of high drug prices,the article says.
Empty choices in UP
The Left may not have much at stake in the coming assembly elections,but it certainly has a view on the campaign strategies of other parties. The editorial in CPI weekly New Age says all the major contenders in Uttar Pradesh are banking solely on social engineering,trying out caste and religious community-based combinations,instead of any concrete issues. Even decisions were announced keeping in view the possible vote banks, it says referring to the Union governments decision to carve out a 4.5 per cent quota for backward minorities within the 27 per cent OBC quota. The social and economic issues faced by the people as well as the issue of corruption will be swept under the carpet by all parties,it claims. In any case,corruption is just one of the by-products of economic neo-liberalism. Almost all bourgeois political parties,national or regional,are committed to pursue this course,which that has caused miseries to the people, claims the article.