Left ups ante against government’s economic policies

March 18th, 2008 - 7:06 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, March 18 (IANS) After buying time on a final decision on the contentious India-US civil nuclear deal, the Left parties Tuesday took on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government over what it termed its failure to contain price rise and strengthen the Public Distribution System (PDS). The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left parties, which support the Congress-led government from outside, staged a sit-in protest at the main gate of parliament in the morning, a walk-out in the Lok Sabha during lunch, and later held a demonstration in the capital to protest the reduction in PDS allocation to two states where they rule - West Bengal and Kerala.

The communists alleged that Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had not taken effective measures to contain the inflation in the general budget he presented in parliament on Feb 29.

The Left, which deferred taking a decision on the nuclear deal Monday during a meeting of the joint nuclear panel, is now apparently keen to focus its attacks on the government’s economic policies ahead of the general elections due next year.

Pointing out that the price rise was “unabated and unbearable”, Communist Party of India (CPI) MP Gurudas Dasgupta said in the Lok Sabha: “It is the result of the budget and the economic reforms. The speculative economy, which is encouraged by this government, is showing its teeth”.

The communists attacked the government in the Rajya Sabha too. “His surgery may be successful, but the patient is dying,” CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said in the Rajya Sabha referring to Chidambaram’s budget. Yechury also alleged that the finance minister’s “diagnosis” of the problem was wrong and therefore the prescription also went wrong.

The Left leaders led by Yechury met Manmohan Singh in his parliament office and demanded immediate restoration of the rice allocation to Kerala and wheat to West Bengal.

“As the series of decisions and actions of the government of India since 1991 (when Manmohan Singh was finance minister) have made the market play the dominant role in determining prices of essential commodities, the people have been facing disastrous impact,” alleged a letter by the Left leaders to the prime minister.

Raising the issue in the Lok Sabha, CPI-M’s Roopchand Pal said: “When there is a huge rise in the prices of essential commodities in the market, the government has reduced PDS supply in these two states. In Kerala, the rice supply for the APL (Above Poverty Level) and BPL (Below Poverty Level) category has been reduced by 88 percent whereas in West Bengal wheat supply for the fair price shops has been reduced by over 50 percent.”

Gurudas Dasgupta alleged that the Left-ruled states have been “singled out” by the government.

Earlier in the day before the house met, MPs led by Yechury and Brinda Karat held a sit-in-protest in front of parliament’s main gate, seeking “immediate measures” to contain price rise.

“We are unhappy about the steps taken by the finance minister in his budget to control the price rise of essential commodities, nor was there any solid assurance in his reply to the budget discussion,” Yechury told reporters after the 10-minute protest.

Pointing out that the steep rise in prices of edible oil and crude oil are affecting the common man, Yechury said strengthening the PDS was the only way to insulate people from inflation.

Later, Left MPs and MLAs from Kerala and West Bengal joined the party’s central leaders to hold a protest march in Jantar Mantar Road here.

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