New Delhi: Under Opposition attack over rising prices, the government on Wednesday maintained that the rates of no food item, barring pulses, have gone up and asked states to take stringent action against hoarders besides slashing taxes to control prices.
Replying to a short-duration discussion on price rise in the Rajya Sabha, Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the government has taken various steps to boost the availability of pulses and expressed hope that the prices would come down in two years.
He also asked state governments to lift subsidised pulses from the buffer stock for sale at a reasonable price to consumers, besides importing pulses and further subsidising the grains supplied by the Centre under the food law.
"Barring pulses, prices have not increased in any (essential food) item," Paswan said while offering States to lift any quantity of tur and urad dal from buffer stock at respective rates of Rs 66 and Rs 82 per kg.
As Paswan reeled out the current and year-ago prices of various food items, Rajeev Shukla (Cong) challenged his figures demanding that the Minister should authenticate and table the data he was reading out as "there was a massive difference between what you are saying and the market price".
Paswan retorted by saying "if I am saying something wrong, bring a privilege motion against me. I am not talking as Ram Vilas Paswan but as a Food Minister of the government."
The debate also saw Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad telling Paswan that "there is no item whose price has not increased. What are you saying? ... A privilege motion can be brought."
When Paswan sought to justify saying it was only "a small increase" for some items, Congress members walked out of the House in protest.
Observing that it was not only the Centre's responsibility to tackle food inflation, Paswan said the state governments would also have to take responsibility.
"State governments should cooperate with the Centre and take action against hoarders," the minister said.
Paswan blamed "hoarding and supply chain" for the price hike but said the Centre has "no institution" to take action against hoarders and black marketeers.
While a rise in onion and potato prices was "seasonal" despite good production, that of sugar was necessary for clearing huge arrears to sugarcane farmers, he said.
The Opposition had earlier joined hands to take on the NDA government over the issue of price rise, with some accusing it of "fudging" numbers and calculations on inflation to suit itself.