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NEW DELHI: Attacking the United Progressive Alliance government on the issue of price rise, the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday criticised its inability to tackle the situation and the move to justify it as the cost of growing economy.
While faulting the polices of the government in general, members participating in the debate on the issue also took on the functioning of the Agriculture Ministry for its failure to control food prices, resulting in a diminishing quantity on the common man's plate.
Adding to the people's distress, Opposition members said, was the issue of rotting foodgrains — a problem accentuated by the government's move to slash allocation to States and its inefficient Targeted Public Distribution System.
Besides, the members pointed out, the prices of foodgrains, pulses, edible oils, sugar, vegetables and fruits, too resulted in greater misery for the aam aadmi, whose welfare the Congress-led government promised as being central to its schemes.
With senior Ministers making periodic announcements of likely shortfall in the production of foodgrains and other essential commodities, the members said such disclosures gave an advantage to hoarders and speculators, and firmed up international prices to India's disadvantage. They also disputed the government's stand in deregulating the market for petroleum products, citing audited figures of public sector oil companies that recorded huge profits. They questioned the calculation on under-recoveries.
Initiating the debate, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley described the price rise as an unlegislated tax on the common man and charged the Manmohan Singh government with “snatching dal-roti” [pulses and bread] of the people.
Stating that while the interests on savings of the salaried classes and pensioners was much lower than the rate of inflation, the government was allowing people to generate private wealth in the name of the Commonwealth Games.
He also touched upon reports of corruption in various projects.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) member Sitaram Yechury said the government did not take steps to check the supply mismatch — which, it said, resulted in high prices of food items — failing to step up public investment in agriculture, or undertake irrigation projects to reduce dependence on monsoons.
Besides universalising the Public Distribution System, futures trading should be stopped. He said that despite the partial ban, the total volume of trade had gone up manifold during the last one year.
Demanding immediate rollback of the hike of prices of petroleum products, Mr. Yechury suggested that the government do away with tax concessions for the rich.
In his maiden speech, Paul Manoj Pandian of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam talked of the cascading effect of petroleum product price hikes. He suggested a holistic look at agriculture production, land use and the problem of shrinking farm lands for the sake of urbanisation.
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