A three-year Draft Agenda was presented at the 3rd Governing Council meeting of the Niti Aayog on 23rd April. This contains a host of proposed legislation and policy changes, whose stated objective is of “accelerating growth and increasing employment opportunities”.
The proposals cover privatisation through “strategic disinvestment” in 20 state-owned corporations, liberalisation of agricultural marketing and land acquisition, introduction of a tax on agricultural incomes and reducing government regulation over private profiteering in various spheres. It is an agenda aimed at further attacking the livelihood and rights of workers and peasants to boost the profits of the Indian and international capitalist monopolies.
The Draft Agenda proposes the creation of Coastal Employment Zones to boost exports and generate high-productivity jobs. It recommends “enhancing labour-market flexibility”, meaning the negation of workers’ rights, as the way to promote job creation. This is nothing but the self-serving dictum of the capitalist class there is no alternative except to further intensify the degree of exploitation of workers and further dilute legal protection of labour rights.
The Draft Agenda calls for easing restrictions on acquisition of land for various purposes. It recommends that land acquired for one purpose should be allowed to be used for another purpose without any hindrance. This implies that the states must amend their laws to permit free conversion of agricultural into non-agricultural land. Given the fact that this government continues to face huge opposition to its efforts to successfully push through a comprehensive legislation on land acquisition to suit the biggest capitalist monopolies, various restrictions are being eased “as a matter of policy”, towards the same end.
Planning Commission to Niti Aayog
The National Institution for Transforming India, or Niti Aayog, was established through a Cabinet Resolution adopted on 1st January, 2015. It was set up as a “think-tank” to generate ideas for government action, and was also called “a directional and policy dynamo”. Subsequently, the decision to dismantle the Planning Commission was taken through a Cabinet Resolution in November 2016.
The stated official reason for replacing the Planning Commission by the Niti Aayog was that it would address the new needs of the country, which has been “transformed from an under-developed economy to an emergent global nation with one of the world’s largest economies”. It was claimed that under the new dispensation, the states of the Indian Union will have a decisive say in determining the direction of economic growth and development.
The Planning Commission had been established in March 1950, as an institution for promoting centrally planned development of India. Public investment was planned in the interests of the private industrial houses. The impression was created that India was marching along a socialistic path while what got built was state monopoly capitalism.
The replacement of the Planning Commission by the Niti Aayog is aimed at further advancing the anti-social agenda of globalisation of Indian capital, through privatisation and liberalisation. It is inspired by anti-communism and the ideology of the “free market”, which stands exposed as a euphemism for the unrestricted exploitation and plunder of the land and labour of peoples and nations by capitalist monopolies and multinational corporations.
What remains unchanged is that all policy and legislative changes are dictated by the interests of the capitalist class headed by the monopoly houses. The monopoly houses dominate the State, which intervenes in their interest
The Niti Aayog proposes moving rapidly towards the elimination of the existing Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees. It recommends “reducing the cross-subsidy in the power sector”, which means to charge higher rates to farmers while lowering the rates for capitalist industry. .
The Draft Agenda endorses the already initiated moves of the government to increase e-payments and calls for further digitization of financial transactions. This opens up huge market for the global monopolies in the digital finance and e-commerce sectors.
The fact that that an agenda dictated by monopoly capitalist interests is being marketed as being aimed at “increasing employment opportunities” shows that the extent of unemployment has become a source of embarrassment for the Modi government. For all the high profile propaganda led by the Prime Minister about “Make in India” and “Start up India”, massive layoffs in many sectors including IT and IT enabled services has resulted in more jobs being destroyed than being created in this period.
From the time the BJP-led NDA government was installed in power with Modi at its head, numerous enticing slogans have been advanced, to make people believe that here is a government which is doing everything in its capacity to create jobs and uplift the poor. It started with “Sab ka saath, sab ki vikas” and “aache din”. Now after three years there are new promises, including “housing for all by 2020” and “doubling of farmers’ incomes by 2022”.
Facts, however, speak louder than words. Facts show that in the last three years, the Modi government has done everything in its power to advance the agenda of the monopoly capitalists at the expense of the people. Indian and global finance capital is pushing for doing away with various restrictions.
The suggestions made by the Niti Aayog are further steps in this direction. They are a part of strategic steps that Indian bourgeoisie is taking to become a world power. It is an anti-worker, anti-peasant and anti-social agenda which has to be opposed and defeated by the combined might of the workers, peasants, women and youth.