Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 01 (Agencies): The Kerala experience in reviving sick Public Sector Units (PSU) was an effective counter to neo-liberal agenda that had resulted in the decline of PSUs elsewhere in the country, CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat said on Saturday.

Inaugurating the third international congress on Kerala studies organised by the AKG Study and Research Centre here, he said Kerala government had turned 32 of 37 PSUs in the state profitable in the last four years.

The state government had made remarkable progress in restructuring PSUs and making them viable by taking up several measures including entering into strategic tie-ups with central PSUs, he said.

Karat said the UPA government's decision to free oil prices might have helped monopolies, but the common man was bearing the brunt of rise in the price of essential items. With the price of petroleum products on the upswing, the plight of fishermen had also become unenviable, he said.

He said since Kerala had an excellent public distribution system, prices could be checked to an extent. However, the centre was not providing adequate foodgrains to the state to meet the food needs of people leading to erosion of PDS.

Karat also criticised the Centre for inking the Indo-ASEAN free trade agreement without consulting the Kerala government. The provisions in the agreement, covering several commodities from Kerala, posed a direct threat to the state, he said.

"The agreement may help monopolies, but will adversely affect small commodity producers," he said, adding the state was becoming a victim of liberalisation.

He alleged that the Centre was neglecting the rights of non-resident Keralites who were sending huge amounts to the country as foreign exchange. "Of the private money transfers amounting to Rs 50 billion, Rs 20 billion comes from the Gulf," he said.

Commending the LDF government in Kerala which had taken up several welfare measures during the last four years including distribution of rice for Rs 2 per kg to 25 lakh families, he said the state had to devise strategies for value addition in agriculture.

Even the welfare measures of the LDF government were being constricted by the centre by not providing adequate resources for implementing central programmes like `Sarva Siksha Abhiyan,' he said.

Karat suggested that the state should make effective use of bio-technology sector which had tremendous potential and improve upon the progress it had achieved in healthcare. Employment opportunities should be expanded for educated women to check gender discrimination.

Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan, who presided over the function, said Communist-led governments in the state from 1957 had taken up development works based on social justice. The Left governments brought poorer sections to the mainstream and reduced inequalities in society, he said.

State ministers M A Baby, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, N K Premachandran, CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, S Ramachandran Pillai, Congress deputy leader in the assembly G Karthikeyan and poet O N V Kurup were among those present at the inaugural function.