UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi as well as Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had opposed the proposed ordinance on convicted legislators even at the initial stages of discussion, according to E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry.

Addressing journalists on the sidelines of a conference on food security here on Saturday, he said the Centre went ahead with the proposal despite their opposition, due to compulsions such as insistence by other political parties and the general elections scheduled for early next year.

“According to the proposed ordinance, a convicted legislator cannot claim salary or other benefits. He can only occupy the post in order to make sure that the post does not lie vacant. But people are not for it, and Rahul Gandhi has rightly expressed the sentiments of the people,” he said.

Responding to a question relating to Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s statement that the right level of the rupee against the dollar was Rs.59 to Rs.60, he said: “When he has said so, I think he must be right. But it could be brought down further if we increase our exports and decrease imports.”

Later, addressing the conference, he said the National Food Security Act, 2013, was a progressive legislation aimed at eradicating hunger, malnutrition, child mortality, corruption in Public Distribution System and such other ills plaguing society.

He said the legislation would give a boost to agricultural productivity as the farmers could be assured of selling their produce at a Minimum Support Price to the government. The government would procure around 63.5 million tonnes of rice every year.

Referring to Foreign Direct Investment in agriculture sector, he said: “What is wrong in allowing FDI in agriculture when it is allowed in every other sector? If at all someone is going to be affected by FDI, it is the usurers who lend money to farmers at exorbitant rates. No one else will face problems.”

The conference was organised jointly by the Indian Institute of Public Administration (Madurai local branch), Madurai Productivity Council (MPC) and Madurai Institute of Social Sciences. The office-bearers of all the three associations addressed the inaugural session of the conference.

G. Subramanian, secretary, MPC, urged the Minister to look into the issue of National Productivity Council having stopped for the last two years the disbursal of grant of Rs.25,000 every year to the MPC for celebrating National Productivity Week in February.

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