M A I N   N E W S

Taming Prices
Edible oil, pulses to be imported
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 16
Admitting that shortage of pulses was a serious issue, union agriculture and consumer affairs minister Sharad Pawar today said the government had decided to import 15 lakh tonnes of pulses through public sector undertakings to bring down the prices of essential commodities. There was also a plan to import one million tonne of edible oil. Besides, the government today said it would, within 10 days, take an appropriate decision on control of forward trading of essential commodities.

Pawar said in the Lok Sabha today that the Forward Market Commission set up by the government to study the impact of forward trading had not yet submitted its report. “If the report does not arrive within 10 days we will take a decision on what to do with the essential commodities in context with the issue,” Pawar said, while replying in the Lok Sabha, at the end of daylong discussion on price rise of essential commodities in the country.

The agriculture minister, however, assured that there was no shortage of wheat and rice in the country, saying “there is enough wheat with 20 lakh tonne surplus in the buffer stock and the government is confident of procuring 150 lakh tonnes this year as against 111 ton last year.”

The shortage of pulses, however, is bothering the government, which has decided to import 15 lakh metric tonnes. Out of this, 11.86 lakh tonnes will arrive shortly, as orders had been placed before March 31. The government further plans to curb prices by importing one million tonne of edible oil through PSUs. A subsidy of Rs 15 per litre of edible oil will also be provided, Pawar said, making it clear that restrictions on export of rice will not be lifted; only basmati variety is exempted.

He added that wheat prices were steady with the supplies improving, clarifying that it would be difficult for the government to increase MSP for wheat or rice. Earlier, the agriculture minister justified government’s position saying India was not the only country faced with rising prices of essential commodities. He cited wheat and rice prices prevailing in the neighbouring countries like Pakistan and China to say India was better placed than them.




FM warns cement-steel cartel
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 16
Blaming financial turbulence in the world for rising prices at home, finance minister P. Chidambaram today said the government would not hesitate to take tough administrative steps against economic players in certain sectors if they did not behave responsibly. He was referring to cement and steel manufacturers.

“Cement manufacturers are behaving like cartels. There are similar signs about steel manufacturers too,” said the FM, adding that this capacity to exploit excess demand in the economy needs to be addressed by fiscal, monetary as well as administrative measures.

The FM was intervening to clarify certain points raised by members during the heated debate on price rise in the Lok Sabha today.

Amid repeated allegations from members that he was shifting the blame of price rise on states, Chidambaram said price rise could not be curbed without support from states. He appealed to state governments to invoke powers under the Essential Commodities Act, impose stock limits and bring to book the hoarders and black marketers. “Over the last year, there have been just 348 convictions under the Act. There have been few raids; bulk in five states. I appeal to states to arrest hoarders and prosecute them quickly,” he told the House during his intervention.



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