There were some stray voices against the recent reform measures initiated by the United Progressive Alliance Government on the first day of the Congress Chintan Shivir that began here on Friday.

Leaders from Kerala, including Cabinet Minister Vayalar Ravi and Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ramesh Chennithala said cutting subsidies would affect the livelihood of millions of poor people. Sources in the group, headed by Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh, said the two leaders criticised the reform steps in the presence of the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.

The Kerala leaders are learnt to have said that reducing subsidies on petroleum products, cooking gas and fertilisers would impact the common man badly. They also argued against foreign direct investment in services sectors.

Ravi, sources said, told the meeting that FDI should be limited to building infrastructure. He feared that foreign companies in the services sector may not be able to cater to the needs of the poor, particularly tribals. He said only a limited number of people were getting the benefits of reforms.

Chennithala wanted the Centre to roll back the decision to ‘partially deregulate’ diesel prices. He said even developed countries provided subsidies to the needy and a country like India could cut subsidies so frequently. Kerala had opposed the Centre’s decision to allow FDI in retail.

However, the Congress president had endorsed the reform process in her inaugural speech. She said that the economic growth over the past decade has been impressive. “This has had a major impact on reducing poverty,” she said. The endorsement is seen an indication that the Government would go ahead with the reform process.

There were also suggestions that reservations must be made mandatory in private sector to address unemployment among minorities, dalits and other backward communities. Delegates also demanded that land reforms and land ceiling should be completed soon. There were also demands to make corporate social responsibility mandatory with proper guidelines.

(This article was published on January 18, 2013)
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