Thursday, February 25, 2010

bjp leaders speech on price rise

25 Feb 2010


From Our Delhi Bureau

NEW DELHI: After two days of paralysed Parliament over the Opposition trying a parliamentary "referendum" through voting after debate, its truce with the government finally resulted in a day-long debate on price rise on Thursday in both the Houses, with the Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha Chairman in an unprecedented move suspending the question hour.

Sushma Swaraj in the Lok Sabha and Arun Jaitley in the Rajya Sabha led the attack as leaders of Opposition showing how wrong actions of the Manmohan Singh government fuelled and continues to fuel food inflation despite no shortages.

The government had a tough time with the simultaneous debate in both the Houses as Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee hopped from one House to another to get feel of the two debates while Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar chose to stay put in the Lok Sabha and the Prime Minister choosing to focus on both the debates from his Parliament House chamber.

Listing import-export scams of wheat, rice, pulses and sugar as the root cause of the prices shooting up, Sushma sought constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe them, Jaitley harped on the government's repeated failure to take up pre-emptive measures to bridge gap between demand and supply and regretted lack of coordination among ministries led to further inflation.

While both the BJP leaders ridiculed the government alibi of international prices and more money in the hands of villagers contributing to the domestic price rise, the ruling Congress fielded in Mumbai MP Sanjay Nirupam, a Shiv Sena convert, accusing them of shutting eyes to these truths. Samajwadi Party President Mulayam Yadav wanted a timetable from the government for systematically bringing down prices.

Braving continuous interruptions, Nirupam ridiculed Sushma claiming food prices kept under control during the NDA rule despite all odds, pointing out that the global crude oil prices never crossed US $40 a barrel in its time while they shot up to $140 and still hovered around $60-85 during the UPA regime and this pushed domestic prices of all commodities.

He also asserted that there is no denial that inflation is very high nor can it be denied the purchasing power of the rural masses shooting up attracted more consumption and led to rise in prices. Debt relief of Rs 70,000 crores to farmers, high support prices and Rs 39,000 crores distributed through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) were not scams fuelling inflation, Nirupam taunted Sushma.

In an hour-long attack on the government, Sushma Swaraj said all four reasons cited by the government in the President's address to Parliament for price rise were baseless. Domestic foodgrain production has not slumped as Pratibha Patil affirmed but actually shot up  to an all-time high at 234 million tonnes in 2008-09 and she quoted Pawar in support and cited another government report on foodgrain output in 2009-10 totalling 216.85 tonnes.

She also cited the American future trade rates to point out that prices of the food commodities were dropping and not rising as claimed by the government. Nor can government show higher support prices to farmers resulting in high prices, nor can it take shelter behind NREGA riddled with corruption. Even if one gets full wage of Rs 100 a day for 100 days under NREGA, it will work out to Rs 850 a month that can not be an increased purchasing power pushing prices in market, she affirmed.

Prices shot up basically because of one after another four import-export scams of wheat, rice, pulses and sugar, Sushma said, showing how wheat continued to be exported out despite a ban slapped in 2007-08, rice siphoned off as Basmati to circumvent export ban and the government agencies keeping imported pulses locked up in ports to let traders take advantage of artificial shortage.

As regards sugar, she faulted the government for allowing export of surplus production two years ago instead of creating a buffer stock and then allowing duty-free imports. She cited a ridiculous situation when sugar was being loaded in a ship for exports at Rs 12.50 a kilo and another ship offloading sugar imported at Rs 36 a kilo.

Sushma also poohpoohed the President committing the government to bring a food security law in her address, pointing out that nothing happened to a government promise on the same subject in her June address to guarantee 25 kilo of wheat and rice at Rs 3 a kilo to every BPL family in villages. She said the government not building four pillars on which food security can stand. They are: Correct figures of poor, higher production, enough godowns and effective public distribution system (PDS).

Instead of pushing up foodgrain production, the government has shamelessly admitted 8 per cent decrease in foodgrain cultivation area, she said and as regards increased productivity, she recommended the Gujarat model of Narendra Modi that raised farm production by 9.6 per cent since 2000 through cultivation in Saurashtra, Kutch and North Gujarat that had vast stretches of dry land.

She pointed out inadequate godown capacity of the Food Corporation of India and how foodgrains were rotting while lying in open after procurement. She also recommended that FCI should shift to mechanised handling of the stocks instead of manual handling that involved piling up new bags on top of old stocks and thus most of the old stocks that are not used first rotting away.


1 comment:

Aditya Nandode said...

Thats lot of things, no wonder media is talking about food inflation as scandal!