Marcus Dam

“Government cannot afford to be callous to people’s sufferings”

KOLKATA: The United Progressive Alliance government cannot afford to be callous to the sufferings of the people, caused by the skyrocketing prices of essential commodities and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has decided to step up its struggle and do whatever needs to be done to bring the government to heel,” general secretary of the party Prakash Karat said here on Tuesday.

“We would like to tell the Congress leadership that if they continue to allow the Manmohan Singh government to go ahead with these policies [that are resulting in price rise], the people are not going to tolerate it. We will step up our struggle, for which we want the wider support of other parties,” he said after a meeting of the party’s Polit Bureau.

“Left not happy”

Mr. Karat said: “The Left parties are not happy with the way the Central government has dealt with the problem. We are still hoping that it will take seriously the five steps recommended by us [to address the problem]. Otherwise, we will take whatever methods, steps, necessary to fight the policies [that have led to the price rise].”

This was in reply to a question from newspersons whether the Left parties would withdraw support to the UPA government if the latter continued to persist with its policies that have resulted in skyrocketing of prices of essential commodities.

“The Polit Bureau decided to call for a mass picketing campaign on May 15 in front of the Central government offices all over the country — except in West Bengal and Karnataka where elections are to be held — in which a minimum of 10 lakh people are expected to participate,” Mr. Karat said.

On the Bharatiya Janata Party’s protests against price rise, he said that party, when in government, was “responsible for diluting the Essential Commodities Act and allowing forward trading in commodities.” “We have nothing in common,” he added.

Curbs on companies

The Polit Bureau noted the Centre’s refusal to put curbs on private companies buying food grains and prohibiting forward trading in 25 agricultural commodities.

“This reveals the bias of the Union government in favour of big business and trading companies at the expense of the people’s interest. The targeted public distribution system [PDS] should be replaced by a universal PDS,” a statement issued by the Polit Bureau said.

“The Food Corporation of India’s procurement operations have been curtailed by private companies that are being allowed to go into procurement. Why is the government [the Centre] so solicitous towards companies making huge profits by trading in food grains?” Mr. Karat asked.