: A debate in the Assembly on Wednesday on the Opposition’s adjournment motion on the rise in prices of rice ended on a discordant note, with the House rejecting it amid demonstration by the Opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) members in the well of the House.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy objected to the Opposition’s action of blocking Food and Civil Supplies Minister Anoop Jacob from replying to the debate while the Opposition members, led by CPI(M) Deputy Leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, wanted the government to come out with figures of those who had been arrested on charges of hoarding and black marketing.

The Opposition members shouted slogans and carried a banner protesting against the rise in the price of rice and the move for direct bank transfers of subsidies. Speaker G. Karthikeyan repeatedly asked LDF members to return to the seats and allow the Minister to continue with his reply.

When his appeals fell on deaf ears, Mr. Karthikeyan asked CPI leader C. Divakaran whether he was pressing for a vote on the motion which he had moved along with others.

The Speaker announced that the motion had been rejected when he did not get a response from Mr. Divakaran. Following this, the rest of the legislative business was quickly completed to end the day’s session. The first indication of confrontation came up when the Food Minister maintained that the Opposition’s contention that 1,500 tonnes of rice had been set ablaze at the Food Corporation of India’s (FCI) warehouse was exaggerated.

He said that only 1,500 kg of rice had been destroyed because it was unfit for consumption. The Opposition wanted him to come out with figures about arrests on charges of hoarding and black marketing.

The Minister gave the details of the action that his department had been taking for the last few months. However, the Opposition members were not satisfied by the reply and trooped into the well of the House.

Mr. Divakaran and others moved the adjournment motion, which alleged that the State government had failed to tackle the rise in price of rice. The motion also highlighted the grave situation faced by the public distribution system on account of the FCI’s action setting ablaze thousands of tonnes of rice.

T.M. Thomas Isaac, CPI(M), dissected the State and Central government’s policies and alleged that the government had failed to heed the warnings of the Civil Supplies Department’s vigilance wing of the impending artificial scarcity in December. He said the government’s ineptitude, corruption, hoarding, and black marketing were responsible for the spurt in price of rice.