The people’s anger over price rise echoed at Wednesday’s meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Prices, with some members calling on the government to not only aggressively tackle price rise but also the growing perception that the Centre wasn’t doing enough on it.
“There was a feeling of (people’s) pressure at the meeting,’’ said a participant seeking anonymity.
Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, in the dock on the issue for several weeks now, was the focus of attention.
With assembly polls due in West Bengal in 2011, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee wanted the UPA to control the prices. Her suggestions: Ban export of essential commodities, set up a task force to monitor prices, call a chief ministers’ meeting to emphasise the need to act against hoarders and streamline the public distribution system.
At the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Ambika Soni reportedly called for steps to narrow the gap between wholesale and consumer price index, besides changing the perception that the Centre wasn’t doing enough to deal with the situation.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee put the price rise issue in perspective, linking it to inflation and money supply. Ghulam Nabi Azad talked of the need to explain the government’s position. On his part, Pawar explained the steps he had taken to check prices.
The prime minister wrapped up the proceedings by directing Pawar to address the press conference and give a detailed, factual and honest account of the situation.
BJP wants Pawar out
The BJP on Wednesday asked the prime minister to shift Pawar out of the agriculture ministry to curb inflation. It also asked him to take charge of the ministry.
Alleging that the middlemen were profiteering at the cost of the poor because of the government’s policies, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “Even Congress general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi had hinted that the ministers should talk about solutions to problems after Pawar said he was not an astrologer to predict when the prices would fall.”
Prasad said the government must explain why it allowed sugar to be exported first at Rs 12 a kg and then imported it later at Rs 30-35 a kg.