Walkout in House over urea sale

Special Correspondent

Opposition alleges diversion of urea

Government accused of trying to

shield officials

Minister says he has sought report

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Assembly witnessed noisy scenes and an Opposition walkout on Friday over alleged diversion of large quantities of urea supplied to the State by the Centre at subsidised rates.

The Opposition, which sought adjournment of the proceedings to discuss the issue, staged the walkout alleging that the government was trying to shield the officials responsible for the open market sale of urea which was actually meant for farmers. Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran offered to have the matter inquired by the Agriculture Secretary, but the Opposition was not satisfied with that and accused the government of having adopted a casual approach to a very serious issue affecting the farmers in the State.

Seeking leave for the adjournment motion, V.D. Satheesan (Congress) alleged that large-scale diversion of subsidised urea was going on in the State for the last four years. The Central government was supplying urea to the State at a subsidy of Rs.16,000 a tonne, very often importing it from countries such as Oman. The State's quota for each year was being fixed on the basis of indents obtained through Krishi Bhavans and the State was expected to submit utilisation certificate every year to the Centre. This being the case, the diversion of urea for industrial purposes could not have happened with the knowledge and connivance of senior officials in the Agriculture Department. However, what the Minister had done was to authorise the officer primarily responsible for the diversion to inquire the matter, Mr. Satheesan said.

Responding to his allegations, the Minister said he had sought a report from an Additional Director in the Agriculture Department on the allegation immediately on learning about it from the media. The government was also seriously concerned about it and wanted to get to the root of the problem. He was personally ready to order any inquiry that would satisfy the Leader of the Opposition as well, he added.

‘Daylight robbery'

Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy said there was no meaning in the Minister's offer as the diversion had been going on for the last several years. On the one side, the LDF was organising anti-Centre agitations, but on the other making money selling fertilizers and food grains supplied to the State at subsidised rates. What Mr. Satheesan had exposed was nothing short of daylight robbery and the Minister had asked the official accused of having diverted the urea to inquire into the matter only to get a report that would be convenient to the government, he alleged.

This resulted in a heated exchange between the Opposition leader and Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and later between him and Food and Civil Supplies Minister C. Divakaran and the House was, for a brief while, plunged in turmoil. When the treasury benches kept on interrupting Mr. Chandy, some Opposition members moved into the well of the House, but they soon retreated following entreaties from the Chair.