The Lok Sabha on Wednesday adopted a motion, urging the government to take further effective action to contain the adverse impact of inflation on the common man.
The motion was adopted after Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee replied to the debate initiated on Tuesday. “This House takes a considered view of inflation and urges the government to take further effective action to contain its [inflation] impact on the common man,” Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar said reading out the motion.
While spelling out the steps taken to contain price rise, Mr. Mukherjee said checking price rise was the “collective responsibility of the Centre and the States.”
Taking on the Opposition for describing the government as “insensitive” to the sufferings of the common man, the Minister said the Right to Education, jobs for the rural poor and entitlement of food grains through a legal enactment were indications of the government's sensitivity to the people.
Admitting that three oil marketing companies posted a profit of Rs. 4,000 crore, Mr. Mukherjee explained that it was a result of cross subsidy provided by upstream oil companies and supported by the government. Otherwise, the losses would have been a whopping Rs. 99,000 crore.
The Minister sought to justify that inflationary pressures were often a result of economic growth. The Centre alone cannot address this. “The implementation of the Public Distribution System [PDS] and maintenance of the Essential Commodities Act are the duties of State governments, under which action could be taken against hoarders.”
Mr. Mukherjee went on to say that he was not debating to score political points, but to resolve an important issue with the collective efforts of the Opposition to help people.
Winding up the discussion before the motion was adopted by the House, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said he (Mr. Mukherjee) had merely narrated a “thesis” without specifying any concrete steps to bring down the sky-rocketing prices.
The sense of the House during the discussion was that the Finance Minister should effect some rollback in the petroleum prices to give some relief to the common man. “The people of the country are as disappointed with the government's response, as is the Lok Sabha,” Ms. Swaraj said.
Earlier, expressing concern over high food prices, Mr. Mukherjee said the hike in the minimum support price (MSP) to farmers was not a populist measure. It was taken to ensure higher food grain production. “We have to give more prices to farmers.”
The MSP of wheat was increased from Rs. 640 a quintal to Rs. 1,100 between 2004-2009 to ensure an increase in production, he said, adding that even the procurement price of sugarcane was increased to Rs. 129 a quintal to boost output.
The price situation was affected due to perpetual shortfall in the production of pulses and edible oils. “Despite the launch of the Oilseeds and Pulses Mission, we could not achieve as much success in production.”