Union Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister M.K. Alagiri on Monday made it clear that he would continue to oppose the Centre’s decision to decontrol phosphatic and potassic fertilizers and increase urea prices by 10 per cent from April 1 this year.
He was confident that he would be able to convince the government to roll back the decision as there was ample time for its implementation.
“My policy is the DMK’s policy and the party’s policy is mine,” he told The Hindu here.
He said the decision would “affect the farmers’ interests, lead to inflation and increase the prices of fertilizers which will ultimately lead to a hike in the prices of food items.”
Meanwhile, sources said the meeting convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday to discuss the issue with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Mr. Alagiri had been postponed and the new date is yet to be fixed.
They pointed out that DMK president and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi had recently written to Dr. Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi to put on hold the decision on fertilizer subsidy until an appropriate time.
While the constituents of the UPA such as the DMK, Trinamool Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and National Conference are opposing the move, seniors in the Cabinet such as Pranab Mukherjee, P. Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal argued in favour of the new policy, pointing out that fertilizer companies had given an assurance that there would be no hike in prices in the coming Kharif season.
The sources pointed out that during the NDA regime in 2001 the then Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha increased fertilizer prices, but owing to stiff resistance from the opposition parties, including the Congress, the prices were rolled back.
Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, in her press briefing after the recent Cabinet meet, said the government had decided to increase the maximum retail price of urea from Rs.4,830 per MT to Rs.5,310 per MT with effect from April 1, 2010.
She said the Nutrient-Based Subsidy (NBS) scheme would promote balanced fertilisation and consequently increase agricultural productivity through higher usage of secondary and micronutrients.
“The NBS regime is expected to depict the actual demand of fertilizers in the country and promote realistic pricing of fertilizer products in the international market,” she had said then.