New Delhi: Tearing into the governments’ defense on the issue of price rise, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj on Thursday presented the grocery bill of her house in the Parliament as she took on the ruling coalition for failing to contain rising prices and spiraling inflation.
Addressing the lawmakers in the Lower House, Swaraj said, “In spite of taking effective measures to contain prices, the UPA government is giving technical reasons to justify the rocketing inflation.”
Hitting the government hard, she said, “Corruption and the wrong policies of the UPA government have led to the present situation. It is because your wrong policies that the RBI had to raise interest rates 13 times, rupee has depreciated to its lowest level, the prices of petroleum products have been hiked several times.”
She continued her attack on the government by saying, “The situation is grim because 60 thousand tons of food grain is rotting in government warehouses and godowns, there has been a decline in industrial production and the manufacturing sector has been witnessing a slump. And who is responsible for all this?
She lamented that Centre’s response to the Opposition’s concerns on rising prices have been very disappointing.
Slamming the government’s assessment of poverty, Swaraj said, “It is highly unfair to say that increased consumption has led to price rise. The price rise is hitting the common man and the government’s has failed to understand this time and again.”
To drill home the point, Swaraj presented the grocery bill of her house. “On December 3, I bought gram floor (atta) at the rate of 18.2/ kg, Rice cost me Rs 27/ kg, salt Rs 13/kg and Onion for Rs 25/kg,” she read out.
“The figures collected by the various government agencies to assess the level of poverty and inflation are misleading and do not reflect the ground reality,” she said.
However, her brief speech was interrupted by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee who rebutted Opposition’s charge on inflation and said that it is declining and just today it dipped to 6.6% from 8%.
The BJP leader cautioned the government by saying, “Reform does not mean image makeover in America. True reform would mean reforming the lowest strata of the society.”
She concluded by saying, ‘If you can’t solve the problem abdicate the throne. We will find a way forward.”
Earlier, CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta initiated the debate on the issue in Lok Sabha.
Dasgupta said, “Rising price of essential commodities reflects abject failure of the UPA government to contain inflation. Our expectations have not been fulfilled.”
Taking on the government, Dasgupta asked the ruling coalition to take effective steps to curb inflation. “The government’s inaction persists even as prices continue to rise. The country, especially the poor, is languishing because of the rocketing prices and finding it extremely difficult to cope up with the situation,” he said.
Allaying Opposition fears, Congress MP PC Chako said, “The concerns expressed by the Opposition are genuine but it would be inappropriate to blame the government for not doing anything in this regard.”
The Thrissur MP said that, “Spiraling inflation has slowly taken into grips the global economy and we are not isolated to it. The government has taken several measures, which includes imposing a ban on sugar and onion exports, to increase production and productivity. This is the reason why inflation has come down significantly in the recent months.”
Chacko also spoke high of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by saying, “He is the one who salvaged the economy since 1991.”
The crucial debate on rising inflation and spiraling prices began in Lok Sabha when Parliament assembled again after facing disruptions and adjournment twice due to Opposition’s demand for Home Minister P Chidambaram’s resignation for his alleged role in the 2G scam case.
Today’s debate is being held under Rule 193 on the inflation situation in India on the 11th day of Parliament’s ongoing Winter Session. An unrelenting opposition agreed to allow a debate on the price rise following an assurance from the government that Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will make a statement on the issue in the Upper House.
The debate comes a day after the Finance Minister expressed concerns over spiraling inflation by saying, "Food inflation has come down from 22 percent in February 2010 to 8 percent in November 2011 but there is a need to bring it down to 5-6 percent.”
Mukherjee said that the retail prices of many essential commodities including rice and wheat have remained stable during the last two years even as the government has increased the minimum support price of those grains.
"I accept that 8 percent inflation is still high but you cannot say that nothing has been done," said Mukherjee.
Opposition has been attacking the UPA government on the issue of price rise and accused it of failing to control inflation despite having four economists at the top including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Initiating the short duration discussion on the issue of price rise, BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu yesterday dubbed the Finance Minister's statement on the price rise as a “jugglery of figures".
With PTI Inputs
First Published: Thursday, December 08, 2011, 09:13