Entire concept of APL and BPL population needs to be scrapped, says Karat

The Left parties began here on Monday a five-day sit-in against price rise and to demand the right to food through a universal public distribution system (PDS).

Addressing the participants, who had come from Haryana and Delhi, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat said the government’s thrust should be on giving people access to cheap foodgrain.

“At a time when 8.2 crore tonnes of foodgrain is stored, it is grave injustice to deny people access to food,” he said, adding that the food security system should be based on universal PDS instead of targeted population. “The entire concept of above and below poverty line population needs to be scrapped,” he said.

Mr. Karat charged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Planning Commission with catering only to the elite and corporate houses.

Communist Party of India general secretary Sudhakar Reddy also demanded a proper food security system keeping in mind the high levels of malnutrition in the country. He claimed that the protests in support of a universal PDS were drawing a huge response.

T.J. Chandrachoodan of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and Debabrata Biswas of the All India Forward Bloc also expressed similar sentiments.

The Left parties have been demanding halt to export of foodgrain at subsidised rates. “This foodgrain is being used for making feed for livestock,” Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat told The Hindu. “The government is subsidising feed for livestock instead of giving subsidised food to its people,” she pointed out.

Supply of 35 kg of foodgrain at a maximum rate of Rs. 2 a kg per family each month and distribution of over 8 crore foodgrain stocks by increasing allocations immediately are being demanded by the Left parties.

They also want the government to scrap the Planning Commission’s “highly dubious” poverty estimates and ensure that these are not used as basis for welfare allocations.

Rallies will be held in State capitals during the sit-in. The Left parties have said that the utter failure of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to control prices is shown even in the latest official data. With the grave situation arising out of the imminent drought in many States, the government must be forced to reverse “these disastrous anti-people policies.”

Among others present at the dharna were Communist Party of India leader A.B. Bardhan and food expert Utsa Patnaik.

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