Describing the present “unprecedented rise” in food prices as “one of the most urgent problems” affecting the country, Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Prakash Karat said here on Saturday that it was “shocking” that the Central government had not seriously addressed the problem, and instead blaming the State governments for the situation.

Mr. Karat also slammed the recent recommendation of the Kirit Parikh Committee

on decontrolling the prices of petroleum products and warned the Centre “not to use it as an excuse to hike the prices of these items, as it will have a cascading effect on prices of essential commodities.”

Inflation in food prices is as high as 18 per cent, said Mr. Karat, adding that India is among the top three countries in the world that are suffering from high food inflation.

“It is precisely the wrong policies of the government which have led to this situation of high food inflation….We will organise a big protest with all secular Opposition parties if such a step is taken,” Mr. Karat told journalists on the concluding day of the three-day meeting of the CPI(M) Central Committee.

On the issue of price rise, four Left parties have called for an all-India rally in New Delhi on March 12 where the issue of political violence in West Bengal on Left supporters and workers will also be addressed, he said.

Criticising the Centre for failing to build buffer-stocks of food grains and cutting the allocation of food grains to States for the above poverty line category by 75 per cent, Mr. Karat said the Central Committee had received reports from States on the consequent difficulties in running public distribution system.

Reiterating his party’s strong opposition to the Centre’s decision to disinvest at least 10 per cent of government equity in all profitable public sector units, Mr. Karat said such a move would result in “transfer of public assets to private hands.”

“Right now NTPC [National Thermal Power Corporation] shares are being offloaded in the market. Some of you would have seen that NTPC share price in the market has dropped sharply. This is going to be another scam.” On the Ranganath Mishra Commission recommendations that also figured at the CPI(M) Central Committee meeting, Mr. Karat said the party leadership had welcomed the recommendation related to the reservations for religious minorities and urged the Centre consider it and take the initiative to implement it at an all India level.

“For instance, there is a Supreme Court ruling that reservation cannot exceed 50 per cent. There is already reservation for SC [Scheduled Castes], ST [Scheduled Tribes] and OBC [Other Backward Class] categories and additional reservation would cross 50 per cent.”

“This is not the situation in West Bengal, so the State government here can decide on how to give any reservation…the West Bengal government will be taking some steps in this regard,” he said.

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