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April 24, 1998


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Swadeshi Jagran Manch warns govt of Asian flu

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf

The Swadeshi Jagran Manch has strongly criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party for its pro-liberalisation stand and decided to launch an educational programme to spread the message of swadeshi (economic nationalism) all over India from July.

This was decided by the SJM's national convention at a two-day meet in Raipur, Madhya Pradesh, on April 18 and 19, where it was also decided not to hold rallies against the BJP's policies.

"We were unhappy with the government's recent decision to import 340 goods under the open general licence," said SJM national convener M G Bokre in a telephonic interview. "This policy is not in the interest of the nation as it will affect domestic producers.

Members of both the BJP and SJM claim affiliation to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. K S Sudershan, the RSS joint general secretary, was present at the convention that was attended by 115 members.

"We do not want to confront the BJP government directly. But we believe that the BJP will take notice of our viewpoint, since we speak for the betterment of the Indian people," added Bokre.

The SJM convener dismissed reports in a section of the press that the RSS and SJM are planning to get their activists appointed in various economic ministries to keep an eye on the Indian economy.

Discussing the banking sector, the SJM convention attacked Indian banks for acquiring non-performing assets to the tune of 22 per cent and warned of a Southeast Asian-like crisis.

"We are developing the same kind of situation like that of Southeast Asian countries. Their banks had NPA close to 17 per cent. Our opinion is that the government should keep a check on the many co-operative banks, otherwise the country will have to face serious consequences," asserted Bokre.

"A good thing our government did for the banking sector was not to allow short-term loans. That would surely have caused trouble for the economy like it did in Southeast Asia," he added.

The SJM strongly opposed opening the insurance sector to foreign firms, urged the government to protect the LIC and the General Insurance Corporation.

Opening the insurance sector is one of the most debated aspects of the ongoing reforms programme, with many foreign investors eagerly waiting for its liberalisation. The proposed insurance bill was withdrawn from Parliament following opposition from most quarters.

Outlining the reasons for the SJM stand, Bokre said, "There were many private insurance companies in India before the insurance sector was nationalised. We all know that these private insurance companies were involved in many corruption deals. In fact, the insurance sector was nationalised to keep a check on corruption. We feel there is no need for the government to pass the insurance bill."

The SJM came down heavily on the World Trade Organisation for enforcing uniform standards on all developing countries. The meeting pointed out that the needs of developing countries is different from that of developed nations. "Every national economy has its own ethos. And no developed country must pressurise India on the patents issue, which is harmful to our nation," said Bokre. He also referred to the controversy over the basmati rice patent.

The SJM flayed the WTO for harping on issues such as human rights, social clauses, good governance, competition policy, environmental issues in developing countries. "The WTO should leave the developing countries to deal with them as per their needs," declared Bokre.

The SJM reiterated its opposition to amending the Patents Act and the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights in line with WTO guidelines if it was against the national interest. Bokre said India should pull out of the WTO if the need arose. He claimed that the Indian market was large enough to meet Indian companies needs.

"We were pressurised to sign the WTO with a view to wrap up the agreement within a given deadline," Bokre said, adding, "If necessary, we should come out of the WTO and provide leadership to the developing countries."

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