For the first time, the government on Thursday admitted that the overall price situation was “very serious”, although its assurance in the Rajya Sabha of taking effective steps to check “the price rise,” failed to prevent an Opposition walkout.
“The overall price situation is very serious. But government has taken various steps to ease the situation,” Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar told the House in his reply to the discussion on the price rise.
In both Houses, members, including those of the Congress, had raised concern over the rise in prices of food items while overall inflation was falling (it was –1.54 per cent this week), saying it is hurting the poor and the middle class. “It is food-flation,” said Basudeb Acharia of the CPI (M) in the Lok Sabha.
Pawar said pulses and sugar were the major concerns and that the government had gone in for easy import of these items. On the monsoon situation, Pawar said the government was “worried”, but would wait for August and September to see if the situation improves.
Intervening in the debate, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the government was taking all steps “to check price rise of essential commodities as and when necessary.”
Pawar said prices of pulses are high due to a demand-supply mismatch while sugar rates are high because of lower production of the sweetener in the current season.
Almost the entire Opposition walked out of the House after Pawar’s reply in the Rajya Sabha, saying they were not satisfied with his explanation.
In the Lok Sabha, members expressed anguish over the hike in food prices saying it was pushing the poor towards starvation. Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Anand Geete of the Shiv Sena demanded that the government provide food to the poor at subsidised rates.
The BJP’s Shahnawaz Hussain said that while the prices of the common man’s food — dal and roti —were skyrocketing, prices of western foods such as burgers, pizzas and pasta, had remained the same.