Opposition on Wednesday kept the pressure on the government in the Rajya Sabha on the spiraling prices alleging scam in sugar imports, a charge rejected by Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.
Pawar, who was replying to a short duration discussion on the rising prices, faced allegations by the united Opposition, particularly BJP and Left, of a "great scam" in sugar.
"Not a single kg of sugar was imported by the Government," Pawar said amid din which forced adjournment of the House for the third time during the day on issues related to fuel or food prices.
CPI(M) member Brinda Karat alleged that state agencies have played a "dubious" role by not importing sugar and leaving it to the private trade.
Sugar prices in the last one year have more than doubled in the retail market and are currently ruling above Rs 43 a kg.
The hour-long reply by Pawar, after the House reassembled at 1400 hours, saw frequent interruptions and shouting of slogans by the opposition which said the minister was not addressing the concerns raised by them specifically with regard to sugar prices and the issue price of commodities distributed through PDS.
Claiming that prices of some of the essential commodities like pulses, flour, potato and onion have declined, Pawar said the government had raised the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for wheat and rice by over 70 per cent in the last five years and some impact was unavoidable on inflation.
Pawar said the government has taken several steps to contain prices of essential commodities and was willing to take more measures in this direction.
"Whatever steps required to be taken have been taken and will be taken by the government," he said adding that the rising trend of prices was a matter of serious concern.
Citing that the prices of potato have crashed to Rs two per kg in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, he said West Bengal
government has written to him for intervention by the Centre by way of incentives on exports.
He assured the two state governments that the Centre can bear the financial responsibility for market intervention for
Pawar said while the MSP for wheat and rice has been raised significantly over the five years, the issue prices for
the Public Distribution System remained the same since 2002.
As a result the food subsidy which was Rs 19,000 crore six years ago, has gone up to over Rs 60,000 crore. The stocks of foodgrains continued to be comfortable with 206.23 lakh tonnes of wheat and 226.52 lakh tonnes of rice, he said adding this was more than the buffer stocks.
While deficient monsoon and floods in some parts of the country had affected the kharif production, the "rabi
prospects seem to be bright".
In the past, the deficiency of kharif production had sent a wrong signal to the market leading to spiralling prices, he