Left parties turn heat on UPA government on price rise(Lead)

April 25th, 2008 - 5:26 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, April 25 (IANS) Mounting pressure on the government to bring down fod grain prices, the Left parties Friday submitted a six-point charter of demands to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as his administration braced for the passage of the Finance Bill with inflation climbing to a record 7.33 percent. “We want price rise to be curbed immediately. We have placed six demands before the government and we hope it will take immediate steps to implement them,” said Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat, who led a Left delegation to Manmohan Singh discuss price rise.

After a nearly hour-long meeting before the prime minister took off for Jammu on a two-day visit, he told representatives of the four Left parties not to “politicise” the issue, stressing that his government was taking all necessary steps to deal with the problem and there was no need for political parties to indulge in scare mongering.

“The prime minister urged all political parties to eschew the temptation of politicizing the misery of the people and warned against creating an environment of society which would only encourage speculators and hoarders,” said the prime minister’s media advisor Sanjaya Baru, who read out a statement.

Singh informed the delegation that despite an extremely difficult global situation, with global food, commodity and oil prices rising, the government was able to ensure that India was among the least impacted in the developing world.

“Many other countries have even higher rates of inflation. The prime minister said that the government is confident of increasing procurement of food grain,” Baru said.

The Left parties’ six-point charter included demand for strengthening the public distribution system (PDS), restoring cuts made in supply of food grain to states under the PDS, and a ban on forward and futures trading in 25 essential commodities as recommended by a parliamentary panel.

The Left parties also wanted curbs on procurement of food grain by private companies and traders and demanded that the limit of public declaration of stocks by a trader should be reduced to 10,000 tonnes. Currently, it stands at 50,000 tonnes.

After the meeting, Karat told the media that the Singh assured the delegation his government will look into the Left parties’ demands.

“There are one or two demands linked to the Finance Bill but the others are broader issues,” added Karat.

Singh also drew the delegation’s attention to the fact that agricultural production in India was rising in a robust manner since the 1980s and in early ’90s.

“It is only after 1996 that agriculture has been neglected. The UPA government has taken several steps in the past four years to increase agricultural production, to give security to farmers, to improve their financial condition and to increase investment in agricultural research and marketing,” said Baru.

The government will closely monitor the situation and take steps to strengthen the PDS and food procurement system, he added.

But some Left leaders remained unconvinced by Singh’s arguments.

“The Prime Minister dodged the crucial issues,” said Abani Roy of the Revolutionary Socialist Party.

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