Conceding that there has been no remarkable improvement in the price rise situation in the past few months, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Tuesday blamed the State governments for “failing” to crack down on hoarders.
He also pointed out that despite the Centre’s offer to give wheat and rice to States at subsidised prices; they had failed to come forward to help citizens get cheaper foodgrains in the open market.
Replying to a discussion on price rise in Rajya Sabha, Mr. Pawar said, “Apart from a few State governments, none has so far taken strong action against hoarders and black-marketers. States should take stern action against such anti-social elements. I have been writing to State governments requesting them to penalise such people so that foodgrains and other stuff stored illegally could be brought to the open market.”
Mr. Pawar also pointed out that the Centre decided to offer 10-lakh tonnes each of wheat and rice to State governments at its purchase price between October and December this year. But so far only around 22,000 tonnes of wheat and 1.49-lakh tonnes of rice had been lifted by State governments.
“It is the responsibility of the State governments to take advantage of the scheme, but unfortunately they have not come forward. If need be, Food Corporation of India would sell foodgrains in open market to help people,” he said.
The Minister said the main reason behind rise in prices of sugar, wheat and rice was the hike in the minimum support prices of these commodities, which was necessary to support farmers. However, pulses became dearer due to poor crop, not only in India but globally. It might take a few months for the price of pulses to come down, while sugar would hover around Rs.30-35, which was necessary to promote cane-growing farmers, he pointed out.
Expressing concern over low production of Kharif crop due to poor monsoon followed by floods in some States, Mr. Pawar said the Centre had taken several measures to address the problem of irrigation and storage of foodgrains and other produce, which would help in addressing the problem of food security in the long run.
Earlier, the Opposition MPs criticised the government for failing to check exorbitant rise in prices of essential commodities. Kalraj Mishra (BJP) said the UPA government failed to fulfil its promise of checking price rise within 100 days of coming to power, while S. Chakraborty of the CPI (M) asked the government to devise a strategy to deal with the problem of price rise, as floods and droughts were a regular phenomenon in the country.