M A I N   N E W S

CWC members rap govt on price rise
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 29
Members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) today rapped the UPA government for its failure to check the spurt in prices of essential commodities which, it they felt, had hit the party’s “aam admi” plank and undermined its image.

Speakers at a three-hour meeting, convened by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to discuss the issue of price rise and current inflationary trends, maintained that the party will pay a heavy political price for the government’s poor management and its inability to anticipate the current crisis.

For the record, however, the CWC adopted a resolution appreciating the steps already taken by the government and urged it to work out an effective mechanism to manage the demand and supply of essential commodities.

While most CWC members, who participated in the deliberations, felt the government’s faulty policies were responsible for the unchecked rise in prices of wheat, pulses and sugar, Finance Minister P.Chidambaram, who was especially invited to brief the CWC on the issue, sought to shift the blame onto the Agriculture Ministry headed by NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

In a three-page note circulated at the meeting, Mr Chidambaram gave an “economist’s” view on the emerging price situation, while stating that the Agriculture Ministry had been constantly scaling down its production figures of wheat and its procurement had declined from 14.77 million tonnes last year to 9.22 tonnes.

“The evolving demand-supply imbalance has turned out to be much worse that initially anticipated by the Ministry of Agriculture,” the note said.

While Mr Chidambaram gave a long explanation on the present situation and the steps taken by the government to control inflation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a brief observation saying that these measures will soon start making an impact.

The meeting witnessed a spat between AICC general secretary Digivijay Singh and Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee when the former tried to defend Mr Sharad Pawar, who, according to him, had said the crisis would not have arisen if he had been allowed to give the farmer the same price at which wheat was being imported.

A furious Mr Mukherjee snapped back at him, saying that this contention was totally false and that the government would have readily agreed to this proposal if he had placed it before the Cabinet.

“Nobody prevented him from placing it before the Cabinet... it would have been readily accepted,” he added.

Mr Devender Dwevedi set the ball rolling when he interrupted Mr Chidambaram’s opening statement and wondered why the government felt it necessary to effect such a steep rise in the price of petrol and diesel.

Mr C.K. Jafer Sharief ticked off the minister saying that they were not interested in figures and that as a political party they were more concerned with the plight of the common man, adding that the party would pay for it electorally.

“Tell us what is being done to control prices,” he said while Mr S.S. Surjewala, head of AICC’s kisan cell, painted a grim picture of the agrarian crisis in the country and gave details of the cases of farmers’ suicides.

Mr Satyavat Chaturvedi said there was no reason for the prices to have risen this year, implicitly blaming the government for its poor management.

Mr Ajit Jogi did not agree with the official explanation that prices would automatically fall if the production was good, adding that the steps taken by the government were essentially short-term while they needed to initiate long-term solutions.

He suggested that the Prime Minister call a meeting of Chief Ministers and ask them to take stern measures to deal with hoarders.

Making a departure from the agenda, Mr V. Narayanswamy referred to the government decision on disinvesting its stake in NALCO and said this be reviewed.





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