The Bharatiya Janata Party here on Friday found fault with the Centre and with Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar in particular for failing to take timely steps to stop the galloping increase in prices of food items.

BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar pointed out that it was a time-tested practice for the Centre to release into the market large quantities of cereals stored with it as buffer stock during times of acute scarcity, as during drought, and when prices are unreasonably high. But nothing of the sort was done this time.

Mr. Pawar has instead blamed State governments for “not lifting” cereals offered by the Centre, Mr. Javadekar continued, “but without bothering to explain why this had happened.” The reason was, the Centre wanted the States to pay not only the procurement price but also the transport costs from the ‘mandi’ to the particular State, say Tamil Nadu or Kerala. “If the States do not get the cereals at a reasonable price they cannot release it at reasonable prices and the goal of bringing down the high market price will not be met. In short, the effort would be self-defeating.”

For the bungling in sugar, Mr. Javadekar blamed the Centre for not assessing in time the total acreage under cane cultivation.

“Mr. Pawar blamed the States once again for not informing the Centre about sugarcane cultivation when in fact through satellite imagery the Centre itself was in a position to assess this,” he said. About a year ago, the Centre allowed export of sugar at about Rs.12 a kilogram and later India had to import sugar at Rs.30 a kilogram.

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