Kolkata: The time Is ripe for starting an India-wide movement demanding a ‘welfare state’, where right to education, universal healthcare, pension for every individual over 60 years, and right to food will be universally guaranteed, said economist Prabhat Patnaik, while addressing a trade union convention held here on Wednesday. The convention was organised by all central trade unions and was attended by economists, legal doyens, cultural personalities, actors and TU leaders.
Patnaik added that right to work, too, should guaranteed failing which unemployment subsidy should be given to all unemployed. “All these will only need only 10% of the GDP, and effectively a 7 % increase in GDP as force multiplier of economy will boost the rest 3%. This 7 % extra revenue can be easily achieved by introducing 2% per annum wealth tax, and introduction of one- time inheritance tax around 33%, he said.
Stating that “neo-liberal capitalism has reached a dead end”, the noted economist said that “unable to answer the crisis of neo-liberal economy, globally the capitalists are embracing fascism to muzzle dissent and attack the working class.”
He warned that the present fascism was markedly different from the fascism of the 1920s and 1930s, as then, by financing through fiscal deficits, the war preparation related militarisation of Japan in 1931 made it the first economy to come out of the recession. Next was Germany, which in the same manner used its militarisation effort to take Germany out of the Great Depression. “This, in fact made, Hitler one of the most popular figures in Germany from 1933-39, as unemployed reached an all-time low at that time in Germany,” he said.
Patnaik said the neo-liberal economy now had got no way to come out of the depression, or to manage disconten by taking populist measures. “Hence ample opportunities lie in front of the working class, taking all other sections of population to create waves of protest stemming out of the discontent ,which has got the capability of shaking the establishment,” he said.
Economist Amiyo Bagchi, an expert on the public sector, condemned the policies of the Narendra Modi government, questioning the patriotism of those in government. “Bania capital is in no way a substitute to the public sector,” he said, adding that even countries like South Korea still own Posco, the largest steel producing plant the world”.
Condemning the move to privatise Railways, Bagchi said the first rail line in United Kingodm that was privatised by the British Government was now in dire straits. Even adopting of new technology in the steel sector in India had not been done by private players, but by Hindustan Steel, the forerunner to SAIL, who first adopted direct Oxygen Reduction Technology in the sector, despite having private entities like Tata steel.
In the pharmaceutical sector, public sector major, CIPLA, has been the country’s pride as due to cheap HIV drugs produced by them, many African children survived, though US companies, despite being present, did not take any step to decrease the price of their expensive drugs to save the people of poor African nations like Africa and Mozambique, he pointed out.
Legal expert Bikashranjan Bhattacharya said the present Union Government was creating hurdles, and said that his experience showed how the alibi of policy decisions of the “Group of Ministers” were being presented in courts to hive off public sector undertakings pivotal to health security (like Bengal Chemical) and strategic national security (ordnance factories).
Congress leader and advocate Arunava Ghosh elaborated how profitable concerns like Bengal Chemicals were being denied opportunities to do business , as in various tests, complete safe products of Bengal Chemicals were being dubbed as “unsafe” by taking samples from “dubious sources”., adding that all this was part of the culture of bribe, corruption and cronyism.
Actor Badsha Moitra said instead of job creation and augmenting the income of the working class, just the opposite was being done by giving stimulus to Ambanis, Tatas, Adanis etc.
The actor also said that popular discontent was being suppressed by creating a media narrative creating a false aura of patriotism and diverting attention from the problems of the economy.
“My protest stems from my pen, and through my pen, I will continue to appeal to people, to rise in protest,” said poet Mandakranta Sen, and recited some revolutionary poems in support of the working class.
The convention congratulated the recent struggles of defence workers and BSNL contractual employees.
At the convention, Centre of Indian Trade Unions’ West Bengal Committee general secretary Anadu Sahoo proposed that “not a single more public entity in West Bengal will be allowed to be privatised at any cost and preparations for intense militant movement by the working class would be taken by all central trade unions in state.” The convention was presided over by a presidium comprising CITU State President Subhas Mukherjee, Ujjal Choudhury (AITUC), Tapan Ghosh (INTUC), Tapas Daschoudhury (UTUC), Prabir Banerjee (TUCC), B Basu (AICCTU), BC Ganroy (HMS) and Samir Bhattacharya.