PM calls for export ban on essential items

February 6th, 2010 - 12:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Feb 6 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday called for a temporary ban on the export of essential commodities to fight rising prices, and urged state governments to take every step possible to ensure the poor were not burdened further.
“We have to moderate inflationary expectations,” the prime minister said in his inaugural address at a conference of chief ministers here, convened specifically on the issue of tackling rising prices, especially of essential commodities.

“We must ban export of these items,” the prime minister said, while outlining the steps taken by his United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government over the past several months, such as additional allocation of grain for distribution through fair price shops.

At the same time, he also urged state governments to invoke their respective Essential Commodities Maintenance Act to prevent hoarding and take strict action against those creating artificial scarcity and fanning inflationary expectations.

The prime minister said chief ministers must also remove all existing curbs on the processing of imported raw sugar, as some states like Uttar Pradesh had banned the entry of raw sugar into mills.

The day-long meeting came against the backdrop of India’s annual food inflation ruling sharply higher at 17.56 percent, with prices of potatoes and pulses nearly 50 percent higher over the past year, rice up 11 percent, wheat 16 percent and milk 14 percent.

The chief ministers’ conference also comes a day after Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar came in for criticism at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting here with some of the members raising questions over his remarks pre-empting price rise in some items.

Congress party sources said though no member named Pawar directly, they said his remarks about possible rise in prices of some essential commodities such as sugar and milk were unwarranted and against the government’s agenda of reassuring people.

Chief ministers of many states that are not under Congress party-led governments came down heavily on the issue of price rise, with Karnataka’s B.S. Yeddyurappa saying it was unfortunate the states were being blamed for the federal government’s inaction.

In a similar vein, Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan said the price rise was due largely to the failure of the federal government in improving supplies of essential commodities like rice, wheat and sugar.

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