BJP smells politician-corporate nexus behind food prices (Lead)

February 8th, 2010 - 6:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, Feb 8 (IANS) Calling rising food prices a “major scam”, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Monday said it smelt a nexus between some politicians in power and corporates who benefit at the cost of poor.
“It is an overall failure of the Congress-led government. It is the result of failure of the government’s economic policies,” BJP president Nitin Gadkari told reporters here.

Gadkari alleged that forward trading in essential commodities was “the main” cause of the current spell of price rise that has seen India’s food inflation touching double digits. In forward trading, a trader takes a position in an equity before delivery.

“Forward trading of essential commodities like rice, wheat, sugar, pulses and edible oils resulted in 99 percent speculative trading, (and) actual delivery (was) less than one percent,” Gadkari said, quoting official data of 2009.

He said the beneficiaries were “multinational (companies) and corporates, manipulators, speculators and black marketers”.

“There may be some political support, without which it is not possible. After all, government decisions are taken by the cabinet. It is for the government to identify individuals and firms who benefit from all this,” Gadkari said, making a power-point presentation entitled “Mahangai Ka Mahaghotala” — the major scam of rising prices.

Asked if politicians from the ruling parties were hand-in-glove with these beneficiaries, Gadkari said, “I don’t want to name them. I know. You check out the commodities exchanges where some companies have made huge profits.”

Citing figures from the government departments, the Reserve Bank of India and the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX), a multi-commodity exchange of the country, the BJP said profits of commodity companies in India had spiralled 2,900 percent in the last three months of 2009.

“Consumers are paying three times more that the price paid to farmers,” he said.

According to him, a consumer bought rice at Rs.32 per kg while farmers would get Rs.10 per kg only, wheat was sold at Rs.24 per kg while farmers got Rs.10.5.

“Sugar is sold at Rs.50 per kg but a farmer gets between Rs.14-18. Isn’t this the collective failure of the government?” Gadkari asked.

He also accused the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of being involved in “manipulative export” of rice.

“Some 100 lakh tonnes of rice were exported at the rate Rs.18-20 per kg while farmers in the country would get only Rs.10 per kg,” the BJP president said.

“This is not a one-ministry problem. There is no coordination between various ministries. There is no integrated policy.”

He said the government didn’t create a buffer stock of sugar when there was surplus stock.

“First, they exported 48 lakh tonnes of sugar at Rs.12.50 per kg and are now importing raw sugar at Rs.36 per kg, which is why the price of sugar went up to Rs.50 per kg from Rs.22 in one year.”

Gadkari asserted it was not only Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar’s failure, “but the entire cabinet of the Manmohan Singh government is to be blamed for food inflation”.

“The UPA is fully responsible for price rise. Pawar is responsible but not solely responsible. The prime minister, the group of ministers, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi are all responsible. Others cannot escape by blaming Pawar.”

The largest opposition party in parliament is now mulling opening a front against the government ahead of the budget session, which begins Feb 22.

In a sarcastic remark about its slogan “Congress ka haath garibon ke saath”, the BJP president said: “It is very unfortunate that Congress’ hand is not with the poor now. It is now reaching for their neck.”

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