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Sugar prices, withdrawal of MPs quota spark anger in Rajya Sabha

The high prices of sugar and the withdrawal of a quota for MPs in central schools sparked anger among opposition members in the Rajya Sabha Friday but failed to move the government.



New Delhi: The high prices of sugar and the withdrawal of a quota for MPs in central schools sparked anger among opposition members in the Rajya Sabha Friday but failed to move the government.

"Sir, the minister says sugar prices have come down but it still costs Rs 35 a kg in the market," Brinda Karat of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) complained during question hour. She spoke after Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar detailed a series of measures that he said had been taken to control sugar prices.

"When we last discussed the issue, sugar prices were at around Rs.50 per kg. It has now come down to Rs 35 kg," Pawar retorted.

This prompted an angry outburst from Balbir Punj (Bharatiya Janata Party): "Sugar prices were once Rs 15 a kg and went up to Rs 50 a kg. What about that?"

Pawar countered: "The days of sugar (seeling) at Rs 15 a kg are over if sugarcane farmers are to get a fair price."

Punj was far from satisfied. "It is not the farmers but the big sugar mills that are making money," he argued.

"That`s not right, and you can verify this from members on your side who have knowledge of the sugar sector," Pawar contended.

The MPs were equally exercised over the withdrawal of their quota for admissions to Navodaya and Kendriya Vidyalaya schools, but Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal was prepared with his defence.

"The Right to Education Act provides for 25 percent reservation for poor children. This means that out of the 10 lakh seats in Nayodaya and Kendriya Vidyalayas, 25,000 seats will be reserved for these children.

"This will take care of the withdrawal of the (MP`s) quota," Sibal pointed out.

This did not satisfy opposition members and, led by Kamal Akhtar (Samajwadi Party) and Birendra Prasad Baishya (Asom Gana Parishad), they continued to demand that the quota be restored.

Sibal, however, stuck to his guns and it was left to Chairman Hamid Ansari to find a way out.

"If you want a discussion, please give a notice," he said and moved on to the next question.

IANS

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