The Opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) walked out of the Assembly on Monday in protest against the State government’s ‘indifference’ towards the issue of price rice.
The walkout came when Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, opposing the charge that the government was doing nothing to prevent the prices of essential commodities going up, said the government was effectively intervening in the market to hold down the prices.
“Your statements and promises are hollow. Their fruits are not reaching the people,” Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan said, announcing the walkout.
Earlier, raising the issue through a notice for an adjournment motion, former Civil Supplies Minister C. Divakaran said the Civil Supplies portfolio had changed four hands during the last one year the United Democratic Front (UDF) had been in office. It had changed the hands of 10 secretaries. And the Supplyco, the State’s market intervention mechanism, changed its managing director six times.
This showed how much attention the government accorded to the most the important of issue of the people, Mr. Divakaran said. He went on to compare the existing prices of several essential commodities with the prices when the Left Democratic Front (LDF) left the government a year ago. He said the LDF had provided more amount than now in the budget for market intervention measures and the Supplyco and other mechanisms such as the Horticorp were functioning more effectively.
The Chief Minister said it was unfair of Mr. Divakaran to mention the change in Ministers handling the portfolio. The change was occasioned by the death of former Minister T.M. Jacob and he (Mr. Chandy) and Minister Shibu Baby John had held charge of the portfolio only so that the person replacing the demised leader from Piravom constituency could take it over.
Civil Supplies Minister Anoop Jacob said the fair price outlets newly opened to check the recent increase in essential commodity prices would continue to function till Onam. Vegetables were being given through these outlets at prices 30 per cent less than the market prices. He said it was a mystery why rice prices went up by Rs.3 a kilogram, because there was sufficient stock of rice in the State. The government would take effective action if this was due to hoarding. Ten kilogram of rice was being supplied at Rs.15 a kilogram to all ration cardholders through the Supplyco, he said, adding that, if found necessary, the government would open fair price rice shops also, all over the State.