New Delhi: The issue of price rise continued to rock the Parliament on Thursday with the main opposition BJP blaming the UPA government’s failed policies for spiralling inflation and price rise.
Opening the debate in the Lok Sabha, the Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj attributed "wrong" policies of the UPA government as reason for the sky-rocketing prices of essential items.
Presenting her party’s stand on the issue, Swaraj said, “The UPA government has completely ignored to follow the basics fundamentals for ensuring food security in the country.”
Launching a direct attack on Union Agricultural Minister Sharad Pawar, she said, “Instead of tackling the issue of price rise and minimising the sufferings of millions of underprivileged people of our country, the honourable minister (Pawar) has been making irresponsible statements. “
The Opposition leader continued by alleging that Pawar has been deliberately misleading the nation by giving a false account of our annual food grain production, its storage, stock maintenance and its distribution to those living below poverty line.”
Stressing more on the hike in sugar prices, Swaraj said, “The government completely regulates the production, processing, distribution, release, import and export of sugar. So I want to know why government allowed export of sugar and provided export assistance at a time when there was acute shortage of the commodity. Why it did not create additional buffer stock of it.”
She even termed the Agriculture Minister as the sugar czar of India.
“When situation worsened the government removed levies and duties to import more sugar and all this (import and export) was done at the same time. What was more disappointing was to see sugar being exported at the rate of Rs 12.5/kg and imported at the rate of Rs 36.5/kg,” she added.
She even presented the fact sheet of 33 sugar mills, listed on the stock exchange, which saw a 2900% jump in their profit from Rs 30 crore in the 3rd Quarter of Oct – Dec 2008 to Rs 901 crore in the same period in 2009.
Shifting her focus to the food security plans of the Centre, she said, “We want to know what measures Union government had taken to check the price rise. Pulses and sugar which are mostly used by common people have become dearer and the Centre has totally "failed" to improve the situation.”
She even pointed towards the existing loopholes in the UPA government’s stand on poverty alleviation, food grain production, storage and its distribution.
Elaborating more on the issue, she stated, “There is still no consensus on poverty figures in the ruling establishment despite authorising four bodies (Planning Commission, Suresh Tendulkar Commission, Ministry of Rural Development and National Commission For Entrepreneurs in Unorganised Sector) to look into it.
Swaraj informed the House that nearly ten lakh tonnes of food grain was wasted due to pests and manual handling of stocks instead of mechanised handling.
Swaraj even quoted a report by the standing committee of Parliament, which suggested a 8% decline in the availability of cultivable land from 6.80 lakh hectares to 6.26 hectares since it was given to the non-farming sectors.
Swaraj concluded by demanding a probe by the Joint Parliamentary Committee into the alleged irregularities committed by the Agriculture Minister in benefiting the sugar industry and colluding with hoarders and big traders in creating a false deficit of essential commodities.
First Published: Thursday, February 25, 2010, 14:57