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Opposition walkout over price rise

Special Correspondent

State government blames Centre and levy system for the price spiral


3 lakh tonnes of paddy to be procured this year

This is to be sold through PDS as rice


THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The budget session of the Assembly resumed on Monday with a walkout by Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) members over the rise in the price of essential commodities in the open market.

The Opposition accused the government of having failed to make effective interventions in the market to check the price spiral, but the government maintained that the price rise was mainly on account of the Centre’s decision to cut the State’s quota of ration articles and the difficulty in procuring rice from neighbouring States because of the levy system prevalent there.

Food and Civil Supplies Minister C. Divakaran said the government had done everything possible to check the price rise and offered to consider any creative proposal that the Opposition might have to bring the price spiral under control. He announced that the government intended to procure 3 lakh tonnes of paddy this year from farmers and convert this into rice and sell the same through the public distribution system (PDS). The government had spent Rs.78 crore over the last 21 months for market intervention, he said.

Presenting the Opposition’s case, Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy and K.M. Mani (Kerala Congress-M) said the price increase was mainly on account of the Finance Department’s refusal to provide adequate funds to the Food and Civil Supplies Department for its market intervention efforts.

Mr. Chandy wanted to know how much money the Finance Department had given to the Food and Civil Supplies Department for the purpose and pointed out that the Centre had cut the State’s quota of ration articles only when the State failed to lift the quota allotted earlier. He pointed out that the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation (Supplyco) was now going in for a loan to carry out its market intervention initiatives.

Mr. Mani, who sought leave for an adjournment motion on the subject, came down heavily on the government for what he termed the inefficiency of the Food and Civil Supplies Department.

Later, while offering clarifications during the reply to a calling attention motion moved by Anathalavattom Anandan of the CPI(M), Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac said the government would compensate Supplyco any loss it might suffer on account of its market intervention measures, Dr. Isaac said.

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