The Left parties on Wednesday criticised both Union and State governments on price rise issue, in the Assembly.

Participating in the debate on the interim budget, K. Balabharathy and V. Sivapunniyam, floor leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the CPI, attributed the problem to Centre's “wrong economic policies,” to which, they said, the State government was tied.

Countering the argument of treasury benches that price rise was linked to increase in personal income of people, Ms. Balabharathy said several segments of the working class were still paid low wages. The prices of essential commodities had increased. “Has the value of labour gone up?”

Apart from globalisation and failure of monsoon, the price rise was due to factors such as hoarding, smuggling and online trading.

She regretted that despite Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's directive to restaurants to provide meals at Rs.20, this was not followed.

Mr. Sivapunniyam said the price of petrol was hiked seven times in the last six months. Would this not trigger a rise in prices of vegetables, he asked.

The speeches of the two leaders were marked by interjections from treasury benches and Congress whip S. Peter Alphonse.

Mr. Sivapunniyam wondered why the Centre had not yet released flood relief assistance to Tamil Nadu, though it had given funds to other States.

To this, Mr. Alphonse said the Communist leader should not unnecessarily indulge in creating a wedge between Union and State governments and between the Congress and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. When the CPI leader referred to the growing debt of the State government, Finance Minister K. Anbazhagan explained that loans taken by the government were used towards capital expenditure.

They eventually led to creation of permanent assets in the State and were not spent on freebies.

“There is nothing wrong in taking loans. In fact, only these loans keep the State going,” the Finance Minister said.

Mr. Sivapunniyam retorted that his only concern was that the State should not fall into a debt trap.

Earlier, T. Velmurugan (Pattali Makkal Katchi) reiterated his party's demand for bifurcating Vellore, Villupuram and Salem districts.

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