Manmohan Singh on Sunday hinted that it would take at least a couple of weeks to bring under control the sudden, sharp increase in prices.
The Prime Minister has been under increasing pressure from allies of the ruling UPA as well as the Opposition to hold the price line after the rate of inflation touched a three-year high of 7 per cent, driven by a sustained surge in food and commodity prices.
“We are all concerned about inflation. Our government is doing everything possible to contain it,” Singh told reporters on the sidelines of the swearing-in ceremony of seven ministers at Rashtrapati Bhawan on Sunday evening.
Singh faces an April 15 deadline set for his government by Left partner CPM to bring down prices. The CPM had last week decided to launch a nationwide campaign against rising prices of essential commodities if the government failed to stick to this target.
Hours before the Prime Minister spoke his mind on high prices, another Left ally — the CPI — ran down the government’s attempts to check price rise as too little too late.
Worried at the political fallout of the high inflation rate, Singh last week convened a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Prices that took a string of steps to control prices, including abolishing import duty on all crude edible oils and imposed a ban on export of non-basmati rice and pulses.
On Sunday, Singh blamed global prices for the higher rate of inflation, pointing that prices of petroleum and steel had been increasing in the international market for the past four years leading to the jump in prices in India.
He also referred to last Monday’s meeting of the cabinet committee to point out that the government was taking steps. “What more can be done will be done,” he said.
By way of comparison, Singh made it a point to mention that a barrel of crude oil cost just $38 in the global market when the NDA was in power. “It has gone up several fold,” he said.
The prime minister, however, emphasised that the government had not allowed prices of essential items under the public distribution system to increase.