PM moots new mission to boost pulses production

Congress party President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the CWC meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday. AP

Singh made the remark at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), which prodded his government “to keep strictest vigil on the prices of essential commodities and take proactive steps to keep them in check.”

Worried over the possible political fallout of drought and soaring food prices, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had convened the meeting to review the measures initiated by the government and to give shape to the party’s response to the twin crises.

Though the prime minister briefed the CWC on the government’s steps to keep prices under control, members were less than convinced. Sources said Sonia herself drew the prime minister’s attention to the fact that retail prices of food-items and other essential commodities were rising, when the wholesale price index and  inflation was showing a downward trend.  She also said hoarding by unscrupulous traders appeared to be the reason behind the disparity between wholesale and retail prices. She advised the prime minister and chief ministers of Congress-ruled states to strongly act against hoarders.
“Activities like hoarding, which create artificial scarcity, should be checked and hoarders should be punished in the strictest possible ways,” stated a resolution adopted by the CWC at the end of the two-and-a-half hour long meeting.

Sources said that Home Minister P Chidambaram strongly advocated the need for Central intervention in the de-hoarding operations to check black-marketing and bids to create artificial scarcity. He was supported by former HRD Minister Arjun Singh and a few others.

But the prime minister pointed out that such an intervention would be contrary to the constitutional provisions as it was the duty of the state governments to maintain law and order. His view was echoed by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S R Reddy and his Delhi counterpart Sheila Dixit.

DH News Service

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