Special Correspondent

Lok Sabha passes Vote-on-Account

  • States urged to take anti-hoarding measures
  • More funds for rural job scheme, if necessary

    NEW DELHI: Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Friday declared in the Lok Sabha that more fiscal, monetary and supply-side measures were in the offing to rein in inflation while noting that the Government would not "remain passive" when cement prices rise abnormally.

    Winding up the discussion on the Union Budget for 2007-08 in the midst of protests from the Opposition, Mr. Chidambaram read out only the introductory and concluding parts of his speech while the rest was taken as read. The House later passed the `Vote-on-Account' through a voice vote.

    In a pointed reference to cement manufacturers, Mr. Chidambaram said: "[The] Government cannot plead helplessness or remain passive when the price of a commodity such as cement rises abnormally and at a very fast rate." The Government was still hoping cement producers would realise their responsibility and moderate prices.

    Noting that the inflation issue was "uppermost in the minds" of members, he assured the House that the Government would take all steps to rein in the inflationary spiral. "I recognise the burden on the people, but this burden will ease over the next weeks and months," he said, while observing that the current inflationary pressure was largely driven by a rise in prices of primary articles.

    Conceding that inflation was a "major concern" for the common man, Mr. Chidambaram said the long-term answer lay in increasing farm production and productivity. For the present, he asked all State Governments to take anti-hoarding measures. Already, five States had imposed stock limits on wheat and pulses, he said and urged others to heed the Prime Minister's advice and impose stock limits and start de-hoarding operations alongside.

    In a point-by-point rebuttal of the criticism by members during the discussions, the Finance Minister emphasised that agriculture was the top priority of the budget for the new fiscal and the UPA Government would certainly address critical issues affecting the farm sector such as supply of credit, water, seeds, fertilizer and power.