CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat and CPI leader Atul Kumar Anjan were among those arrested here on Thursday for blocking roads as part of a “jail bharo” agitation by Left parties in protest against soaring prices.
According to police sources, Left activists disrupted traffic near the Dak Bungalow square for more than an hour, after which the protesters were taken into custody and lodged in the Gardanibagh camp jail. They were released in the evening.
Ms. Karat told The Hindu that the onus of the rising prices of essential commodities rested entirely with the Central government.
“It is not the problem of any one State or one party controlling that State. It is the sole responsibility of the Centre to rein in the current price rise,” she said. The agitation was to highlight the Left parties' major demands that included the universalisation of the public distribution system, ban on futures trading and no further hike in fuel prices.
“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's comment on food price inflation ‘that the worst was over' needs to be questioned,” she said.
There were 4 crore tonnes of food grains lying in the country's godowns. “All we are demanding is that the poor be given 35 kg of rice and wheat at Rs.2 a kg. But the Centre has virtually disrupted the PDS by its policy of ‘narrow targeting',” she said, adding “the practice left the poor at the mercy of volatile market prices.”
Ms. Karat also demanded a White Paper to reveal the cause of the sugar price fiasco.
“I personally would term it [the sugar price hike] a scandal, as we had a bumper sugar crop. Let a White Paper be issued to clear the air over the matter so such an episode is not repeated in the future,” she said.