Following the announcement of demonetization of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes, the working people in the cities and rural areas have been facing acute hardship. Lakhs of workers have lost their jobs and peasants are facing a threat to their livelihood. On New Year’s Eve, the PM announced amidst much fanfare, a set of measures in an attempt to pacify the mounting anger of the people and to make a show that the cash deposited in the banks following the 8th November announcement is being applied for the welfare of the people.
The Prime Minister announced an interest rebate for small loans under the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana in urban areas. Loans less than Rs 9 lakh will see an interest cut of 4% and those less than Rs 12 lakh will see a cut of 3%. An interest cut of 3% for loans of up to 2 lakh rupees taken in 2017, for new housing, or extension of housing in rural areas.
According to the 2011 census, more than half the urban population is homeless and the problems is only worsening. This is a direct result of increasing numbers of rural population being forced to migrate to cities and the unaffordable cost of housing in the cities. People who do not have secure livelihood cannot afford to borrow. The purpose of the interest rebates is only to improve the health of housing finance companies who are rubbing their hands in anticipation of business picking up for them. “The overall sector may witness increased off-take,” said the head of a housing finance company, which means better opportunities to make profits.
The next announcement was a 33% increase in the number of homes built in rural India under the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana.
As in the case of numerous Pradhan Mantri Yojanas, the PMAY too had very little to show in the report card one year after it was launched on 25th June 2015. The Minister of State for Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation had to admit that, less than 15% of approved projects were work in progress! Given this, there is no credibility in the Prime Minister’s promise of a 33% increase in the number of homes that will be built in rural India.
The third in the list of announcements was that three crore Kisan credit cards will be replaced by RuPay cards.
RuPay is a card payment scheme that allows all Indian banks and financial systems to participate in electronic payments. By replacing KCC with Rupay cards, the government is promising “smart cards” to peasants to borrow. But this does not in any way increase the income of the peasant families or save peasants from bankruptcy. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 80 per cent of farmers killed themselves in 2015 because of bankruptcy or debts after taking loans from banks and registered microfinance institutions.
The Prime Minister announced that the underwriting of loans given by banks to small businesses by the Union government will go up from Rs 1 crore to Rs 2 crore. Moreover, credit limit for small industry will be raised from 20% of the turnover to 25%
This will only lead to more number of small businessmen getting into debt. Small businesses are increasingly getting ruined as they are unable to face the competition from giant monopolies. Paucity of cash, following the demonetization, has further wiped out thousands of small businesses. They are deep in debt and sanctioning higher loans to them is like rubbing salt on their wounds.
Financial assistance to expectant mothers: Rs 6000 will be transferred directly to the bank accounts of pregnant women who undergo institutional delivery and vaccinate their children.
Regarding the promise of direct transfer of Rs.6000 to pregnant mothers, the truth is that the National Food Security Act 2013 already provided a universal maternity benefit of Rs. 4,000 under the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana, IGMSY, 2010. The Ministry of Women and Child Development, was questioned by the Supreme Court on non-implementation. The Ministry then filed a misleading affidavit on October 30, 2015, stating that the government would extend coverage of the IGMSY program from 53 districts to 200 by 2015-16 and to all districts by 2016-17. However, the budgetary allocation for IGMSY in 2016-17, in direct contrast to this claim, is very low at Rs. 400 crore (unchanged from the previous two years), which makes it impossible to increase coverage from the 53 pilot districts!
These announcements have not been made with any intention to address the issues faced by the workers, toilers and peasants. On the one hand, this State of the capitalists attacks the workers, peasants and toiling majority, while on the other, it tries to pacify us with worthless “concessions.”
Working people have a right to livelihood, health care, housing and specific care for pregnant mothers; this capitalist economy is not capable of guaranteeing these rights. We do not want your charity, Mr. Prime Minister; we demand our rights.