The government’s faulty policy that was failing to take note of the unprecedented spurt in prices of essential food items had led to a situation in which a majority of the population was unable to buy enough to eat, even as black marketers, hoarders, multi-nationals and corporate houses made huge profits, Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari said on Monday.

Mr. Gadkari outlined the party’s decision to stage an agitation on this issue in and outside Parliament and take whatever help was necessary from the other Opposition parties to corner the government in the Budget session. While the party’s programme, including a march to Parliament, was announced, its parliamentary strategy would be worked out by Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, he said.

Mr. Gadkari presented an array of facts and figures from official sources to make out the case that it was not the farmers who benefitted from the high prices of wheat, rice, sugar and pulses. He demolished the government argument that higher minimum support price for major agricultural produce, including sugarcane, had led to the higher prices. “Inferior red wheat was imported at Rs. 19 a kg, while farmers were given Rs. 9.50 a kg for better quality wheat,” he said. The consumer was often paying three times the price paid to farmers, with the middlemen making the bulk of the profit.

Since 78 per cent of the population spend most of its monthly income on food, their capacity to buy enough to eat had weakened considerably, and this would have a long-term impact on health and nutrition, he said.

Mr. Gadkari’s view was that speculative activity, covering up to 99 per cent of the total produce of some items at the commodity exchanges, led to this state of affairs. Through graphs and charts, he tried to establish the direct co-relation between speculation and higher price. One key demand made by the BJP was the removal of all food items from commodity exchange forward trading.

He said the United Progressive Alliance government was unable to build adequate buffer stocks even when there was good domestic production. Instead of building up stocks, it earlier allowed sugar export. “Maharashtra alone has the capacity to store 50 lakh tonnes of sugar.”

He also pinned the blame on the Ministries dealing with the situation and alleged that there was lack of coordination among them.

Mr. Gadkari demanded immediate steps to bring down the prices and reckoned that putting an end to forward trading would have a salutary effect.

He expressed surprise that when the government was headed by an economist Prime Minister, such faulty policies were being followed. There was talk of food prices being in line with international prices without any attention being paid to the fact that per capita incomes in India were far below than those in the developed countries.

Inferior red wheat was imported at Rs. 19 a kg, while farmers were given Rs. 9.50 for better quality wheat

UPA government failed to build adequate buffer stocks even when production was good

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