Centre’s decision to waive off import duty on wheat became the latest flashpoint between the government and the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, forcing the upper house to adjourn.
On Friday, the Opposition banded together to slam the government for reducing the import duty from 10% to zero; dubbing the move as “anti-farmer” and not in national interest. CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury was the first to raise the issue, underlining that the decision will “ruin Indian farmers” and benefit multinational companies. He accused the government of taking a “deshdrohi nirnay” (anti-national decision) and said the move could be in anticipation of “food riots” in the country following the move to demonetise higher value currency.
Even as the government placed on record that there is no shortfall of wheat in the country and the duty waiver is in anticipation of a possible rise in wheat prices, Yechury said farmers are selling their produce at half the price.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also slammed the decision as “videshi uthaan” (benefit foreign companies). He said the move will prove to be a disincentive for farmers and allow benefit companies from US, Russia, France and Ukraine.
The BSP, SP and JD(U) also criticised the move, with Sharad Yadav pointing out that globally wheat prices are on the decline.
Food minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s assertion that the decision is to prevent a spike in domestic prices failed to cut ice and the house had to be adjourned till lunch following protest.
Lack of quorum became the reason for adjourning the house post-lunch. The issue was raised by Congress’ Anand Sharma as a point of order. Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said he can raise the issue only when he starts the proceedings. As he read out the business for the Private Members’ Business, Kurien raised the quorum issue and then directed the ringing of the quorum bell and taking a count of the members present in the House.