Left urges PM to distribute surplus food stock at subsidised prices to check inflation

Seeking universalisation of the public distribution system, the Left parties on Saturday asked the government to distribute the surplus stocks at subsidised prices to check high food inflation.

Leaders of the four Left parties met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here and submitted a memorandum demanding minimum allocation of 35 kg of foodgrains per month at the rate of Rs. 2 a kg.

CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said the leaders told Dr. Singh that the distinction between the above and below poverty line should be abolished and all should be included in the PDS. According to Mr. Karat, the Prime Minister indicated that this option could be considered.

Mr. Karat said that around 5 crore tonnes of surplus foodgrains was available with the government; 25 lakh tonnes had already been exported by private traders who got them at subsidised prices.

“We believe that these foodgrains should be distributed universally. Particularly at a time when India is facing one of its worst droughts, export of foodgrains is short-sighted and will only benefit big agri businesses,” the CPI(M) leader said, asking the government to stop exports and distribute the excess stock to the affected in drought-hit States at the BPL price.

Mr. Karat was accompanied by S. Sudhakar Reddy (Communist Party of India), Debabrata Biswas (All India Forward Bloc) and Abani Roy (Revolutionary Socialist Party).

Rejecting the Food Security Bill in its present form, the Left leaders said the targeted PDS being implemented now excluded a vast section which required subsidised foodgrains.

“With a large majority of the workforce in the unorganised sector having no fixed income, the errors of exclusion far outweigh those of inclusion in a targeted system. With the largest numbers of hungry people in the world, India requires a comprehensive and inclusive food security system, which can only be provided by scrapping the targeted system and replacing it with a universal system,” the memorandum said.

When Dr. Singh told the Left delegation that the Standing Committee was studying the Food Security Bill, the leaders suggested that necessary amendments be brought into it. The Bill should be tabled in Parliament in the monsoon session starting next week.

The Left leaders said it was unfortunate that the Bill seeks to push the so-called reform process by further linking the APL subsidy to acceptance by the States of certain objectionable conditions such as introduction of cash transfers, and production of the Aadhaar card.

“Cash transfers at a time of high food inflation will erode even the present inadequate allocations apart from other factors such as possible diversion of the funds for other pressing needs,” the memorandum said.

“India can have a successful food security programme only if the kisans of India are protected from the volatility of market manipulation by powerful lobbies,” it said.

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