VS says government has no time to think of basic needs of citizens

The Opposition walked out of the Assembly on Wednesday accusing the government of letting ruthless profit seekers to take over the entire open market in the State, setting the prices of all essential commodities on an upward spiral.

The issue came up in the House at the start of the zero hour, with Cherthala MLA P. Thilothaman giving the Speaker notice for moving an adjournment motion to discuss the failure of the government on the price front. He read out the prevailing open market prices of commodities such as rice, onion, vegetables, meat, fish and so on and said the rise in prices was unprecedented.

He said a major share of the rice meant for distribution through the ration shops was getting diverted to the storehouses of big merchants. The promised Rs.1-a-kg rice was not fully reaching the BPL cardholders. The Supplyco and other market intervention entities of the government had withdrawn from the scene to give the market forces a free field.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy countered the attack with the preface that he would not refute there had been a rising trend in prices. A government should be judged by what it had done and was doing in the face of an extremely testing economic environment.

He said the government would restore, with effect from this month, the distribution of Rs.1-a-kg rice to the BPL cardholders through ration shops at the earlier level of 25 kg a family. He said that in April and May the supply was curtailed to 18 kg a family. He described the working of a three-layer distribution system being employed by the government to hold the price of rice down—the ration shops, the fair price ‘rice shops’ and the open market sale scheme—and asserted that only the branded varieties of rice was carrying the high price Mr. Thilothaman had mentioned in the notice.

Food and Civil Supplies Minister Anoop Jacob also said the price position given by the MLA referred to branded items, whereas all essential commodities were available at Supplyco outlets at far lesser prices.

Alappuzha MLA T.M. Thomas Isaac asked the Chief Minister to take a look at the latest commodity price index and wanted to know how Kerala’s index had shot up to the top of the national list.

Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan announced the walkout alleging that the government, “with its mind engaged in more serious issues such as whether there should be a Deputy Chief Minister or not,” had little time to think of even the elementary needs of the citizens.

He attacked the Food and Civil Supplies Minister “for allowing the profit seekers to exploit the open market.”

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