Criticising the United Progressive Alliance government for its failure to tackle the problem of food security, accentuated by the spectre of drought in many parts of the country, a national convention rolled out a set of demands, including universal public distribution system.

Organised by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Wednesday, speakers at the convention For the Right to Food and Against Price Rise, held the Centre's policies responsible for the rise in the prices of essential commodities.

Moving a resolution at the convention, CPI (M) Polit Bureau member and MP Brinda Karat said these policies included the pre-budget hike in the prices of petrol and diesel; refusal to ban futures trading in essential commodities; weakening of the public distribution system by slashing allocations; allowing sugar export and then import, benefiting big companies at the expense of people and farmers; and failing to ensure public investment in infrastructure in the farm sector.

Ms. Karat said that while the CPI (M) was all for legislation ensuring food security in the country, it could not agree to the government's proposal of cutting down the allocation of foodgrains from 35 kg each month per family to 25 kg and raising the issue price from Rs. 2 to 3 per kg.

Besides foodgrains, the party wants the government to include pulses, sugar, cooking oil, and kerosene at subsidised rates and incorporate all food and nutrition schemes of the Central government into the proposed act.

In the draft resolution, the convention demanded promotion of self-sufficiency in production of foodgrains, pulses, sugarcane, and oilseeds through public investment, provision of extension services and appropriate land use policies with guaranteed fair prices for farmers and expanded public procurement and implement land reforms.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Issac and his West Bengal counterpart Asim Dasgupta, Polit Bueau members and CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat are taking part in the day-long convention.

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