Discussion regarding rise in prices of essential commodities raised by Dr. Chinta Mohan.
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: The House shall now take up the Discussion under Rule 193.
DR. CHINTA MOHAN (TIRUPATI): Sir, we are going to discuss a very important issue of essential commodities and its prices.… (Interruptions)
SHRI ANANTH KUMAR (BANGALORE SOUTH): Sir, before he begins the debate, I would like to know where is the Finance Minister.
SHRI ANANTH KUMAR : We respect him, Sir but the Finance Minister generally replies to such a debate. It is customary that the Finance Minister should reply to the debate. Every time it has happened so.… (Interruptions) Sir, it seems that the Finance Minister is not bothered about the rise in prices.… (Interruptions)
THE MINISTER OF STATE IN THE MINISTRY OF FINANCE (SHRI PAWAN KUMAR BANSAL): Sir, the subject of discussion is, ‘rise in the prices of essential commodities’ and that subject is with the hon. Minister for Agriculture and the Minister is present here. He is making fuss about nothing.
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Moreover, it is the joint responsibility.
SHRI ANANTH KUMAR : Sir, let them not argue… (Interruptions)
SHRI PAWAN KUMAR BANSAL: Sir, any matter which relates to the Ministry of Finance would be replied to… (Interruptions) Any relevant matter which is raised in the debate will be replied to.
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Moreover, the Cabinet has the joint responsibility and Shri Sharad Pawar is here.
DR. CHINTA MOHAN (TIRUPATI): Sir, today we are going to discuss rise in the prices of essential commodities. We had discussed it in the month of July this year also.
15.21 hrs. (Shrimati Sumitra Mahajan in the Chair)
We had discussed this subject in the month of May also. When we were discussing this subject, my friend Prof. M. Ramadoss from PMK Party had said that when the economy grows the inflation also grows. He is an economist and he has got his own opinion. He also said that indirect taxes will influence the rise in prices. He further said that expenditure of the Government will also influence the prices of the essential commodities. A senior colleague from CPM, Shri Basu Deb Acharia said that because of the week Public Distribution System, the prices of essential commodities are going up. He had also said that bringing down the number of essential commodities from 70 to 15 has also given rise to the prices. But I have my own view about the rise in prices. I would like to divide this debate into two parts. I would like to mention what the Government is doing and how the standard of living of the people in the villages and the urban areas has improved. I would also like to touch upon the constitutional aspects of this problem. I would like to give my views on this.
Madam, under the Public Distribution System, we have more than four lakh fair price shops working in our country. All these essential commodities like rice, wheat and kerosene are supplied through these fair price shops. I happened to go to some fair price shops recently. I asked a fair price shop dealer what are his problems. He said that he is getting a bag full of rice from the Food Corporation of India. They told him that this bag contains 100 kilograms of rice. When he brought it and checked it in his fair price shop, it weighed only 80 kilograms and 20 kilograms of rice was missing. He has to sell cheap variety of rice to the poor people for Rs.5.50 per kg. but the bag contains only 80 kilograms. He told me that since he is a poor man, he cannot raise his voice before the District Collector therefore, he wanted my protection.
I also asked him about kerosene. He told me about blue kerosene. He said that he is getting a barrel of 1000 litres and he is supposed to sell it at Rs.9.50 per litre. But when he weighed it, he found that it is only 800 litres and 200 litres were missing from the barrel. He also said that if he raised his voice, they will cancel his fair price shop licence. He said that this is his plight. He also said that if you could do something about this, it would of great help.[R22]
I agree with what had been said by Shri Acharia that the Public Distribution System needs to be strengthened. There are some loopholes in this system. We need to have vigilance on this. It is very difficult for a fair price shop dealer to approach the FCI to give them their full quota of 100 kgs of rice. I would like to request the Government to take note of this point. The Government should see that these small things are rectified as early as possible.
Madam, I would like to move a little away from the scope of this debate and would like to talk about the various programmes and also about the living standards of the people in rural India. Take the case of the Anganwadi centres. The Government is spending a lot of money on these centres. In each of these centres two persons have been appointed – one is the teacher and the other is the attendant. The teacher gets a sum of Rs. 1200/- and the attendant gets a sum of Rs. 500/- to Rs. 600/- per month. The Government also has a scheme of providing nutritious food to people through these centres. Now, in reality, if we go to the grassroots we would find that these centres are in a very bad shape.
I would also here like to make a mention about the mid-day meal scheme of the Government. It is a wonderful programme and nowhere in the world has any such programme existed. The Government is providing mid-day meal schemes to around 12 crore children and are also spending Rs. 2/- per child per day. I happened to go and see the mid-day meal programme in the primary schools. The children there are getting their meals but no curry or egg or sambar is being given to them with rice. Poor children are eating rice mixing it with water. They are not complaining about it because they are getting at least a meal free of cost and they are sitting their classroom happily. They are not getting little curry to mix it with rice to eat it properly. This is another aspect that I would like to point out here.
The other day the hon. Deputy-Speaker was kind enough to make a mention about the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan. Under this scheme, there are about 100 children and there are hardly one or two teachers to take care of the students from Standard I to Standard V. The teachers there are not able to teach properly and the standards of students are going down in spite of so much expenditure by the Government for the scheme.
It is an occasion when we find a bit of opportunity to paint the real picture of rural India. So, my next point is about the primary health centres. We have good primary health centres with good infrastructure. Quality medicines also are available. Nurses are available but doctors in these primary health centres are missing. The nurses are doing the job of the doctors. The patients in these primary health centres are not getting good treatment. The conditions of the primary health centres needs to be improved upon.
Madam, I would also like to make a reference here about the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Under this programme we are allocating more than Rs. 200 to Rs. 300 crore to each of the districts. About 200 districts have been selected for this programme. But unfortunately money being allocated under this programme is being diverted. The poor people are not able to get their wages properly. I think, the Government has to think about this aspect.
Madam, finally I would like to speak about the living standards of the people. I happened to visit one of the villages in my constituency when the women were engaged in sowing paddy crop. I went to them and asked them as to what they were doing and what their problems were. They said that they were earning about Rs. 25/- to Rs. 30/- per day for doing this job. I asked them as to how many hours they had to work to earn this money. They said that they had to work for about five hours a day from 8 am in the morning to 1 pm in the afternoon. Then I asked them about their problems and they said that they got lot of problems. After working for five hours and earning their money when they wanted to go to the market for buying rice, vegetable and oil, their husbands did not allow them to go to market and make necessary arrangements for cooking and instead taking away their earnings. I asked as to what was the problem of their husbands and what did their husbands do with that Rs. 30/-. She said [MSOffice23] that he snatches away Rs. 30 or Rs. 25 which she has earned and goes to the liquor shop, drinks, comes back and starts beating her. And so, she is having a lot of problems. She says that if we can solve this problem of liquor, she can live happily. This is what the people are expecting from the Government.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Please speak on price rise.
DR. CHINTA MOHAN : Finally, I will give my views. Coming to constitutional bodies, there are four pillars of our Constitution. And they are supposed to do their job properly. Recently I happen to visit one city. I do not want to mention the name of the city and the person to whom I talked. After going to the city, I got into a taxi and I asked the taxi driver how is his Chief Minister. He said that his Chief Minister is doing extremely well. Then I asked him about his opinion about the Chief Minister. He spoke only two or three sentences. He said that he is living in a small flat, he is living in the same flat for 27 years and even after becoming a Chief Minister, he is living in a small flat. He also said that his Chief Minister does not have air-conditioner in his bed room. I asked him as to how he knows about all these things. He said that his Chief Minister does not have air-conditioner in his bed room and he is having only a small fan. I again asked him as to how he knows all these things. He replied that though he is a taxi driver not even passed tenth standard, he keeps an eye on the living habits of the Chief Minister. He is even looking into the bed room condition of the Chief Minister!
I went to another State and asked another man about his Chief Minister. He says that his Chief Minister gets up at 1 p.m. I asked, “What is he doing? He replied that he is not able to look into the problems of the common man” This is the type of Chief Ministers we have in our country. He said, “I do not know who has to wake them up even when the Chief Ministers are getting at 1 p.m.” … (Interruptions)
Recently, I happened to go to the apex court. I would like to say something about constitutional bodies.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Please be relevant to the subject under discussion.
DR. CHINTA MOHAN : I had gone recently to an apex court. I went round and talked to some people around there. I asked whether there is anybody concerned about the poor people? In Apex court nobody knows the problems of the poor. I was taken by surprise. One or two persons sitting in the apex court know the problems of the poor. The rest are belonging to the rich class and not understanding the problems of the poor people of the country.
Coming to bureaucracy, there are about 100 Secretaries in the Government of India. Not even one Secretary represents the poor. Whether this party or that party is ruling, they do not understand the problems of the poor. The Secretaries of the Government of India are not going to the rural areas. All the time, they are going abroad and not knowing anything about the poor and they are taking many decisions. This is the type of bureaucracy we have. We have this type of bureaucrats and this kind of constitutional bodies who are not concerned about the poor man.
Here, I would like to say my view. Last July, we were discussing on a subject and our friends gave their views saying that when economy grows, inflation also grows. The other Member said that when we have a weak public distribution system, these things do grow.… (Interruptions)
SHRI ANANTH KUMAR : Madam, I am on a point of order. Rule 356 of Rules of Procedure says:
“The Speaker, after having called the attention of the House to the conduct of a member who persists in irrelevance or in tedious repetition either of his own arguments or of the arguments used by other members in debate, may direct him to discontinue his speech.”
[MSOffice24] … (Interruptions)
MADAM CHAIRMAN : I have asked Dr. Chinta Mohan to come to the subject.
DR. CHINTA MOHAN : I am giving my views.… (Interruptions)
I know what to speak and I know what I am speaking. … (Interruptions)
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Nothing will go on record.
(Interruptions) … *
MADAM CHAIRMAN: I am asking him to conclude.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Dr. Chinta Mohan, if you do not have anything on the subject, please conclude. You have to speak on the price rise.
DR. CHINTA MOHAN : My Party, the Congress Party, is more committed towards the poor people, towards the common man. My leader, Shrimati Sonia Gandhi is more committed towards the poor people. … (Interruptions)
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Dr. Chinta Mohan, you have already taken 15 to 20 minutes. You have not spoken a word on the subject. If you do not have anything to say on the subject, please conclude.
DR. CHINTA MOHAN : Yesterday, Madam Sonia Gandhi, my leader, reduced the prices of petrol and diesel. We are more committed towards the poor people of this country. We have ideological commitment to control the prices. In my view only with a commitment, we can bring down the prices of all these essential commodities. We have a senior Minister with us here. He knows each and every thing. I request him to see that the prices of vegetables, fruits, pulses and other commodities are brought down.
With these words, I conclude.
* Not recorded
SHRI ANANTH KUMAR (BANGALORE SOUTH): Madam Chairman, thank you very much. I rise to participate in the debate on the discussion regarding rise in prices of essential commodities. Whatever the Member who spoke before me mentioned on this subject, amply articulates the hollow commitment of the Congress Party towards the common man’s problems.
See the way Dr. Chinta Mohan initiated this discussion and the way in which the UPA Government has tackled this subject. In the last two and half years of the UPA Government, we have discussed this issue of price rise several times. But before that, between 1998 and 2004, during the NDA’s regime under the leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, I remember, only once the issue of price rise was discussed. That was in 1998. … (Interruptions)
MADAM CHAIRMAN: No comments please.
SHRI ANANTH KUMAR : Under the UPA Government,
Madam, I will take the benefit of my Leader, Shri L.K. Advani’s presence in this House now. Once he described:
THE MINISTER OF STATE IN THE MINISTRY OF CHEMICALS AND FERTILIZERS AND MINISTER OF STATE IN THE MINISTRY OF PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (SHRI B.K. HANDIQUE): Shri Ananth Kumar, excuse me, you lost the last election on these very issues. Please remember that. … (Interruptions)
SHRI ANANTH KUMAR : This is the way the UPA Government is conducting itself regarding terrorism. They are indulging in vote bank politics whereas regarding controlling spiraling prices, they are indulging in note bank politics. That means, the Congress is not interested in aam aadmi, it is interested only in vote bank or note bank politics.
It is really surprising and this is not for the first time whenever Congress comes back to power at the Centre, corruption, financial mismanagement, hoarding, black-marketing, deceit and long queues etc. resurface. Whenever they go out, they disappear.
The hon. Minister of Agriculture, Shri Sharad Pawar is present here. In the last two and a half years, there has been price rise of food, fuel, viz., petroleum and diesel, and of all manufactured goods. The inflation as on today is 5.41 per cent. When the NDA Government was in Government, the inflation was hovering around three per cent and most of the time it was less than three per cent. But in the last two and a half years, sometimes the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) has touched the roof to eight per cent. What is the reason is a big question mark? Whether there is any benefit to the consumers, any benefit to the farmers and any remunerative prices for the farmers? If there were to be remunerative prices for the farmers, there would not have been so many suicides by the farmers. But there have been benefits only to one section, viz., black marketers, hoarders, to the corrupt politicians and officials.
I charge through you, Madam, that the UPA Government is not for aam aadmi, it is for khas aadmi.
Let us browse through their Common Minimum Programme. I quote for the benefit of Shri Sharad Pawar and others. They said:
“The UPA is wedded to the welfare of farmers, agricultural labourers, weavers, workers and to the weaker sections of the society. Our parties are irrevocably committed to the daily well-being of the common man across the country.”
With this price rise of essential commodities like Daal, Chapati, Idli, Doas, Aalu, Onion and other vegetables how are you going to achieve the daily well-being of the common man across the country?
I also want to bring to the kind notice of the hon. Minister of Agriculture, through you, Madam one more thing. The NCP is having one more para.[a26]
“The UPA will work out, in the next three months, a comprehensive medium term strategy for food and nutrition security. The objective will be to move towards universal food security overtime if found feasible.”
Sharad Pawar Saheb, this was made in 2004. It is not three years but two-and-a-half years have elapsed. Today, I thought that we would be having the benefit of Shri P. Chidambaram, the hon. Finance Minister who always used to reply to the debate on the price rise. Despite our repeated request, he is not here today. I again quote:
“The UPA’s economic reforms will be oriented primarily to spreading and deepening rural prosperity to significantly improving the quality of public systems and delivery of public services to bringing about a visible and tangible difference in the quality of life of ordinary citizens of our country.”
I would request Sharad Pawar Saheb, who is representing the UPA and the Union Government here that with this price rise, to tell us how come the quality of life is ensured.
Now, I would quickly point out what is the level of price rise. In respect of wheat, it is now sold at Rs.15 per kilogram. It was only Rs.9 in 2004. Atta was sold at Rs.10 per kilogram then and now it is sold at Rs.17 per kilogram. Sugar was costing Rs.14 per kilogram and now it is sold at Rs.25 per kilogram. Tea was sold at Rs.80 per kilogram and now it is being sold at Rs.135 per kilogram. Rice was sold at Rs.10 per kilogram and now it is being sold at Rs.30 per kilogram. Mustard oil was sold at Rs.40 per litre and now it is sold at Rs.70 per litre. The price of all types of dhal whether it is Chana dhal or urad dhal or moong dhal, was Rs.22 per kilogram and now their price is between Rs.55 and Rs.70/- Milk was costing Rs.14 per litre then and now it is sold at Rs.22 per litre. Petrol is sold at Rs.51 per litre. Diesel is costing Rs.47 per litre. Cement is sold at Rs.205 per bag. So, there is an increase of 33 to 38 per cent in the last two-and-a-half years in respect of all the essential commodities. The Congress is not serious. The UPA is not serious. The Government is not serious. The initiator of the debate speaks irrelevantly. For example, in the entire South India, people require urad dhal for making idli and dosa. With Rs.70 per kilogram, it has become a dream.
Our friends on the other side were clapping and hailing Shrimati Sonia Gandhi regarding reduction of petroleum prices. In the last two-and-a-half years, they have increased the petroleum and diesel prices seven times. The total increase is like this. In respect of petrol, it is Rs.17.24 and in respect of diesel, it is Rs.11.96 per litre. In respect of petrol, the increase is 57 per cent and in respect of diesel, it is 58 per cent. How much have the international prices been reduced? Before a couple of months, it was sold at $ 78 per barrel. From a couple of months, it is being sold at $ 56 per barrel. It means, there is a reduction of $ 22 per barrel. What is the reduction made? The reduction is only Rs.2 per litre in respect of petrol and Re.1 per litre in respect of diesel. My straight question is this. Why have you not reduced the rate of kerosene? Why is the price of kerosene not revised? Why is kerosene sold at Rs.20? Why is it costing Rs.30 in blackmarket and why is it sold at Rs.10 per litre in the PDS? Why have you not reduced the price?
What about LPG? First of all, Shri Gurudas Dasgupta was telling that LPG was not available. When he said in the morning that LPG was not available, every section of this House clapped and supported him. LPG has become invisible to the common persons, for the households. What is the rate of LPG? It is sold at Rs.310/- per cylinder. Why has the price not been revised? Why is it being continued? [R27]
If the petroleum prices have come down by $22, why is there no impact on kerosene and LPG which are used by the common man? During our Government’s tenure, actually the prices of petroleum products were raised five times and we reduced it four times. We were very sensitive, we did not wink an eyelid and when the international prices have gone down, we immediately reduced the prices of petroleum products here.
Madam, I would like to bring some technical details to the notice of this august House and to the Government. In the last one year, the wholesale price index points for cereals have gone up by 13 points, for pulses it has gone up by 2 points, for vegetables it has gone up by 38 points and for household requisites it has gone up by 20 points. This Government has been in power for the last 29 months. Every month the wholesale price index of all the essential commodities has gone up by one point. That is the spiraling nature of price hike during the tenure of the UPA Government.
I can go ahead with a lot of other details. Actually, across the board, all the newspapers in the country are criticizing them. I would like to quote some headlines from newspapers. They are: ‘Aaloo Bana Karela’, ‘Inflation: How it affects Daily Life’, ‘Prices Skyrocket: Government in Tizzy, Allows Private Import’, ‘Commodity Volatility starts hitting homes’, ‘Rising Prices Set Alarm Bells Ringing’, ‘Basic Food Items Soar’, ‘PM Panel raises Price Alert’, ‘Dabba Dance gets richer on our Dhal Chawal’.
Now, I want to go to the basic issue as to how this Government is handling the issue of price rise and how they are shedding crocodile tears. Actually, one of the newspapers gave a very good headline which says: the Congress and the Communist Parties, our comrades! Another newspaper report says, ‘CWC Meet stages mock fight with the Centre: Congress wants the UPA Government to control rising prices and help Aam Aadmi’. Why is this drama? Why are they issuing these mock threats? Another news report says:
“The Congress Working Committee, which met on Thursday to discuss the politically sensitive price rise situation, sent out a strong message to the Manmohan Singh Government to get its act together on measures to curb the inflationary spiral in essential commodities. The Prime Minister and the Finance Minister – the latter attended the meeting as a special invitee – were told in no uncertain terms that the plight of the Aam Aadmi mattered the most and that the issue would have serious political fall out with Assembly Elections due in three States.”
That means, they are worried more about Assembly Elections, not about Aam Aadmi. Now, I would like to quote the Resolution passed by the Congress Working Committee. It says:
“While taking note and appreciating the various measures already taken by the Government to reduce the impact of the high prices of certain essential commodities, this meeting urge the Union Government to work out an effective mechanism to manage the demand and supply of essential commodities and to check the rise of prices in order to reduce its impact on the vulnerable sections of the society.”
T[r28] his was 30th June 2006. The prices are still soaring high.
Now, I come to our Comrades. The Comrades have become mahir in showing hara jhanda inside and lal jhanda outside.
SHRI AJOY CHAKRABORTY (BASIRHAT): Why is he attacking Comrades?
SHRI ANANTH KUMAR: I am attacking Comrades because you will see what I read now.
‘Politbureau tells UPA Government’, this is Politbureau meeting on November 19, just ten days back. ‘The Politbureau of CPM has demanded the UPA Government to immediately the prices of petrol and diesel to the pre-June 2006 level so that the galloping prices of essential commodities could be curbed. It called upon all its units to carry on the on going campaign in respect of continuing trend of high prices of essential commodities which was making the life of Aam Aadmi miserable.’ They know that they are making the life of the Aam Aadmi miserable, but they do not want to withdraw their support from the Government… (Interruptions) Madam, price rise is a secular issue … (Interruptions) So, they should take back their support.
Madam, I repeat, the Politbureau expressed concern at the continuing trend of high prices of essential commodities. Prices of food grains, sugar, pulses, edible oil continue to remain at a high level with no sign of their coming down, impacting on the lives of the people. This is 19th November 2006 and they are not raising the voice. They are keeping mum because one of my friends used to tell me and asked me whether I know the meaning of Communist. I said, ‘I do not know’.
The other statement is from the Congress Party. ‘PM assures Left, price rise concerns us too’. There is a wonderful statement… (Interruptions) I am not yielding… (Interruptions)
MADAM CHAIRMAN : He is not yielding. Please take your seat.
SHRI ANANTH KUMAR : Shri A.B. Bardhan said, ‘rise in prices is burning the poor and the middleclass’. Shri A.B. Bardhan is a known Comrade. He is a Communist Leader… (Interruptions) I am reading what he said… (Interruptions)
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Nothing will go on record, except Shri Ananth Kumar’s submission.
SHRI ANANTH KUMAR : This is A.B. Bardhan’s comment on the UPA’s Common Minimum Programme. I quote:
“In the Common Minimum Programme of the Government, we have raised the issue of price rise and that of the health expenditure as well. So, let us see, how much the Government will work towards both. So far the Government has shown no concern for the continuously rise in prices of food items and other essential commodities. On the other hand, there is an eagerness to push through policies that benefit foreign capital and big businesses. Foreign Direct Investment has been allowed in vital sectors despite the Left’s opposition. We give the UPA poor marks.”
The CPI is telling this.
“We give the UPA poor marks on all these issues, including the petro-price issue, for an increase in the price of diesel will lead to further increase in the prices of essential commodities.”
I further quote, Madam:
“However, there is one grudge that we have against this UPA Government. It has failed to check private persons involved in the distribution of food grains and other essential commodities. It is because of these private individuals who buy commodities at a lesser price and later sell them at high prices that inflation is taking place. We want the Government to deal with them strictly.”
This is what CPI is telling. Therefore,
I need not explain more on this issue. [r29]
Finally, I want to ask some very direct questions to the hon. Agriculture Minister. If he studies the entire food scenario of the country, he will find that except for wheat there has been surplus in the production of all the essential commodities. But, in the case of wheat, the production has fallen by 4 lakh tones. But, the fall of mere 4 lakh tones should not create hundred per cent inflation that it becomes Rs. 16 per kilogram. In the same way, all other essential commodities are hitting the roof. Suddenly, the food stocks are almost empty. The minimum norm is 8 million tones but the stock has fallen to 2 million tones, which has sent a wrong signal to the people who are indulging in hoarding and black marketing.
To conclude, I would like to ask as to what is the action plan of the UPA Government to check price rise of the essential commodities. It is because one year back, there was a Cabinet Committee on Prices headed by the Prime Minister of India. Despite having a Cabinet Committee on Prices with of course the Finance Minister, the hon. Agriculture Ministers and others being its members, why have the prices not come down? Why are they continuously spiraling and soaring? Why this inflationary trend is there? We get to know from the governmental data that prices are increasing because of three things. Firstly the rise in prices of food and pulses, cereals and vegetables, the rise in prices of the petroleum products, and the rise in prices of manufactured goods. But, what is the overall strategy of the Government of India to control this price rise, overall inflation which is going above 5.4 per cent, and which is hitting the common man so hard? Therefore, the Bharatiya Janata Party demands for strengthening the PDS system. Not only strengthen the PDS system, there should be transparency. Therefore, whatever the Central Government issues through the PDS system should be transparently publicized at the State level, at the district level, at the village level, and at the ration shop level. Not only that, the edible oil and pulses should also be given through the PDS system which is not being given.
For the first time in the last two and half years, the production and procurement have failed and there has to be a study from the Government of India especially in wheat. The wheat production has fallen by 1.7 per cent in the last one year, that is 4 lakh tones in one year. If the production is crumbling like this, what are the reasons for that? What has happened to the procurement? Though the MSP have been raised marginally not to that extent, I think they are still lower than the market price, yet there has to be a procurement mechanism. Without the procurement mechanism intervention in the agricultural market, the farmer is hit in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab. Farmers are committing suicides in Punjab and Kerala. Therefore, we demand that there should be a monitoring system to study the production, procurement of the needed food items, and these needed food items should be made available to the States where there is scarcity. [r30]
Thirdly, the taxation on petroleum products is 58 per cent now. The collection through customs duty and excise duty on petroleum products itself is Rs.1,00,000 crore. This year, you have collected Rs. 1,00,000 crore. When you are collecting Rs. 1,00,000 crore through taxation on petrol, diesel, kerosene and LPG, why do you not give back some of the benefits to the consumers so that there will not be any cascading effect on transport and in various other activities of the economy? Therefore, our demand is that the Government should review the taxation structure on petroleum products and provide relief to the common man.
Fourthly, the Government should plan in advance and estimate the production level, and accordingly prepare a contingency plan.
Every year, there will be droughts and floods. The hon. Agriculture Minister is well-versed with these natural calamities. He is a well experienced person. He knows that during the last ten years, every year the Government of India is spending Rs. 10,000 crore towards drought relief and flood relief. What is your plan?
Dr. Chinta Mohan has made at least one relevant remark, and that is about the quality and the quantity of food grains supplied through FCI. Therefore, the management of FCI has to be taken care of.
Lastly, we, on behalf of BJP, demand that the Government should remove forward training in food commodities. When we were there, it was a situation of surplus. Therefore, when the surplus situation was there, to provide remunerative prices for the farmers without allowing the middlemen to do forward trading, we allowed that situation. Today, it is a deficit situation. Whatever is good in a surplus situation cannot be good in a deficit situation. Therefore, we demand for the removal of forward trading in food commodities and a ban on satta in agricultural products, by which the aam admi can be helped, the prices of essential commodities can be controlled and brought down, and there can be once again some relief to the common man, to the farmers, to the poor people and to the labourers.
SHRI P. KARUNAKARAN (KASARGOD): Madam, I am sorry to say at the very beginning that why and how our respected Member, Dr. Chinta Mohan has taken this responsibility to make such a sympathetic presentation especially when we are discussing this serious issue.
It is true that we have been discussing this issue in all the Sessions. In the last Session also we discussed this issue. Fortunately, if I remember correctly, in the last Session also, the mover of the discussion on this issue was Dr. Chinta Mohan himself. I think, no one in this House may have any other exceptional view with regard to price rise.
Madam, there are many reasons for the price rise. I do not like to take this occasion to blame the Government or to praise the Government but I would like to make it clear as to what really the situation now in the villages or in the towns or in the nation as a whole is. It is true that there are four indices to show what the price rise is. They are Wholesale Price Index, Consumer Price Index and Retail Price Index. But unfortunately, we can say that none of these indices give the real expression of the real price. That is why the Reserve Bank’s suggestion to construct a harmonious Index of Consumer Price for macro analysis and policy-making is worth serious consideration.[R31]
A harmonious all-India Index will help the Government and the RBI to respond quickly to price movement. Really, even the Finance Minister and the Agriculture Minister are confused when we speak about the different types of price indices. What we need is to have one price index which can translate the real issues of the common people.
As I have said, there are many reasons. You see, when we go to the details of the price rise, we could see that the situation is very serious. The price of all the basic items has shown a sharp increase compared to last year. The increase varies from 12 per cent to 84 per cent for various items. This is really of the whole sale price.
When we come to the retail price, the situation will be too higher. The consumer price may be much higher. The price of dhal, wheat and chana has gone up to 84 per cent, 68 per cent and 28 per cent respectively compared to the price of 2005. This figure is taken from the National Commodities and Derivative Exchanges.
The Report of the Chamber of Commerce says that from July 25 to 26 the prices of eight essential commodities have shown a sharp increase of 19 per cent. When the income of an average Indian has risen to six per cent, the price rise has gone to 19 per cent. So, you see the difference. When there is a price rise, at the same time we cannot see, commensurate with that, the income is coming in the basket of the common people. The rise in the price of essential commodities and the rise in the per capita income are really not appropriate.
While, on the one side, the price of the essential commodities goes up, what we see is that as far as the farmers are concerned, almost the prices of all the agricultural produces or the cash crops have come down. We have the experience in Kerala. Three or four years back, the price of one quintal of pepper was Rs.21,000, and now it is Rs.7,000 or Rs.8,000. Four years back, the price of one kilo of areca-nut was Rs.160. Now it is Rs.55 or Rs.60. How is it possible for the farmers?
On the one side, the price of the essential commodities goes up but at the same time the prices of all the agricultural produces or the cash crops have come down. Not only that, the price of agricultural inputs to be used by the farmers has also gone up. It means, the prices of pesticides or chemicals or seeds have all gone up. In the service sector, with regard to expenditure on health, expenditure on education and also on transport, the cost of all these has gone up. So, we can give the answer why the farmers are compelled to commit suicide.
We have discussed this in the House that in many of the States the farmers have committed suicide. In Kerala, the number was 1300 and in many other States, it was more than that. It was because on the one side the price has gone up and on the other side, it is difficult for the farmers because they cannot remit the bank loans which they have taken from the banks.
It is true that the Government has taken some measures, especially our Agriculture Minister has visited many of the States. Special packages have come. Of course, we are congratulating him. At the same time, these fiscal measures are really temporary measures. The basic measure that we have to take at the national level is about import policy and WTO policy. You see, when we have signed the Sri Lankan Accord, of course, the agricultural sector as well as the cash crops of Kerala are hit severely.
Another most important reason for this price rise is the transport cost. It really affects almost all the sectors. The bus charge is increasing. The car charge is increasing. Auto-rickshaw charge is increasing.
In the House itself when we talk about the increase in the price of petrol in the international market, we, the CPI(M), and other Left Parties have made a suggestion that there should be some structural changes in taxation[MSOffice32] .
The Central Government has to give some relief, the State Government has to give some relief and to the companies we should not give such compensation etc. But the Government was not ready to take such responsibilities. The Government said that in the international market there is an increase and so we are compelled to increase the prices of the petroleum products in the domestic market. May I ask a question here, as my respected colleague has asked? The price of crude oil was at 70 or 72 dollars per barrel at that time. Now, there is a decrease of 20 to 22 dollars per barrel. But the relief that you have given to the common people is two rupees per litre in petrol and one rupee per litre in diesel. I think it is really a joke. When there is a decrease of 20 or 22 dollars per barrel, why can the Government not give much more relief to the common people? That is also one of the reasons why the prices are going up.
The Government has to take some administrative steps. The mover of this discussion Dr. Chinta Mohan said about the Public Distribution System. We have the experience in Kerala. We have a very efficient network of Public Distribution System. We were able to distribute almost all the commodities through the Fair Price Shops. I am really to sorry that now the ration shop managers have come here to demonstrate before the Parliament because as a result of the classification of APL and BPL they are not able to run their ration shops. Most of the dealers are not getting full quantum. The quantum of wheat has also decreased. Earlier, we were proud of having such an efficient Public Distribution System. But it is now really inefficient to function.
It is only through the Public Distribution System that we can enter the market. The responsibility of the Government is to stabilize the market and not enter the market. How can the Government enter it? On the one side, the Government can take action. On the other side, the Government enters the market. Then, how will the Public Distribution System function effectively? So, the Government should give rice, wheat and all other commodities that can be distributed through the Fair Price Shops.
MADAM CHAIRMAN : Shri Karunakaran, your Party has only 20 minutes and there are three speakers. Please distribute it in that way.
SHRI P. KARUNAKARAN : Yes, I am concluding. It is our experience that if a family gets ration for four days from the ration shop and for three days they have to go to the open market. But it is not possible now. We can control the market by giving these essential commodities through these Fair Price Shops. But that is absent now. The Government has to take the responsibility not only in Kerala but throughout India to strengthen the Public Distribution System.
The other issue which also is most important is the speculative transaction. The big merchants or the traders may come in the market. Sometimes, they may procure wheat and other things; they may give a higher price. In the case of wheat also, I do not think that the production of wheat is less. But, at the same time, we are compelled to import wheat. It is because there is hoarding on the one side. Traders have come earlier in the market. They have taken the wheat from the farmers by paying a little higher price. The Government has to look into the question that procurement is also one of the most important factors that the Government has to look into. The Government should ensure that there is a buffer stock always. Then only we can control the market.
It is true that there are number of reasons for the price rise. I do not blame only the Government. Less production in food grains or sugar may be the reason. Our market is a demand and supply market. When the demand is high and the population is growing, then the supply is not enough. So, it is true that there may be price rise. But at the same time, the duty of the Government is to stabilize the market, control the market and give relief to the people. In these circumstances, the Government has to take some more conscious efforts.
I do say this because this issue has been taken lightly by Dr. Chinta Mohan. He is an efficient parliamentarian. He can take up any issue with utmost importance. [MSOffice33] But at the same time, if the Government has to reply to the discussion seriously, then the mover of the discussion has to contribute in it in a big way, and criticize the Government on certain issues where the Government needs to take action. Otherwise, the issue, which is being discussed in the House loses its seriousness.
Lastly, an hon. Member stated that we are no longer Communists, and that we are not working for the people. Everyone can very well observe that we are Communists because we are sitting here. Otherwise, we would have been sitting on the other side. We are Communists, and that is why you are sitting there and are not able to cross to this area.
In the last 2 ½ years we have raised many issues — like price rise, pension, and other policy issues — in this House, but you were always raising issues related to religion, etc. … (Interruptions)
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. Karunakaran, please address the Chair.
SHRI KHARABELA SWAIN : Do you mean to say that you only take up the issue of the people in the House, and we do nothing for the people? … (Interruptions)
SHRI P. KARUNAKARAN : You can yourself see the opinion expressed by lakhs and lakhs of people in the villages, towns and other places. They are raising their voice over this issue. We do criticize the Government when they take anti-people measures, and you have also joined us to criticize the Government on issues like price rise, etc. But at the same time, our intention is not to withdraw support from the Government. It is because we want a secular Government. We do not want an anti-people Government or a Government that always supports … (Interruptions)
SHRI KHARABELA SWAIN : The price rise is because of the Communists, and that is why you are taking up this issue. … (Interruptions)
SHRI P. KARUNAKARAN : No, this is not the case. Actually, you are popularizing it. … (Interruptions). Thank you.
SHRIMATI M.S.K. BHAVANI RAJENTHIRAN (RAMANATHAPURAM): Madam, I thank you very much for having given me a chance to participate in the discussion under Rule 193 regarding rise in the prices of essential commodities.
I seek your permission to speak in my mother-tongue, Tamil, the sweetest language in the world.
* “Chelvarum Servathu Nadu Thaalla Vilayullum Thakharum Thalvila” These words have been written by great Tamil Saint Thiruvalluvar. The meaning is, “A Nation State can be defined as one that encompasses the farming community that grows food and agriculture produce in plenty and the other communities that has people who uphold cherished values in life and people with all riches.” It is because of the dedicated people who grow agricultural produce in abundance, people who uphold values in life and people with all riches in life people of a country can co-exist and live together constituting a state. I hail from such a state where we have well meaning farmers who grow food grains and other agricultural produce in plenty thereby helping people to lead life upholding values and as one from the state that has a well meaning Administration led by our Chief Minster Dr. Kalaignar Karunanidhi and ably assisted by his lieutenant Thiru. Stalin. With their blessings and support let me participate in this discussion on rise in prices of Essential Commodities. A Government that seeks to protect the interests of the people must take all out efforts to contain the rise in prices of essential commodities. A good Government must control the prices of Essential Commodities. If such steps are not taken in time, it will hamper production and affect trading resulting in the erosion of buying capacity of people. It will also be causing inflation and reduction in foreign exchange reveres. We may have to face with a declining trend in our economy in comparison with the world economy.
*English translation of the speech originally delivered in Tamil.
Great economists like Adam Smith, Alfred Marshall have all defined the economic status of a Nation or a Country which is directly related to the production and distribution, availability and buying power, supply and demand. We have our own experts in economics and economists who are also equally great. Our country is now led by a world renowned economist Dr. Manmohan Singh at the helma of affairs as Prime Minister of the UPA Government ably led by Madame Sonia Gandhi as the Chairperson of the alliance. This UPA Government has taken effective steps to curb the trends of price rise while increasing our foreign exchange reserves taking our Balance of Payment position to a satisfactory level. It will not be out of place if I emphasize that valiant efforts have been taken by the Government to make our country a super power with an all round growth. With a vision and a mission the union Agricultural Ministry led by Shri Sharad Pawer has been functioning to help our Indian Farmers to give a boost to our economy as our is basically an agro-economy. Our Union Agriculture Minister Shri Sharad Pawar has been keenly observing and monitoring the agricultural activities in various places of the country ensuring distributed cultivation and also ensuring availability at economic rates. He has been taking effective steps to arrest the upward trend. He has been taking effective steps to make available the needed subsidy to keep going the cultivation of certain crops. Thus he has been contributing to a balanced growth of our economy. That also adds up to the factors that keep our economy in good stead. Necessary corrective steps are effectively taken in time. For instance, our UPA Government has announced today the reduction in the prices of Petrol and Diesel as a timely measure. This proves a point that ours is a good governance aiming at curbing the rising trend in prices in time.
At this juncture I would like to point out that our Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Dr. Kalaignar Karunanidhi has been taking viable economic measures to improve the lot of farmers and agriculturists thereby showing way to the country and even the Asia region. When centre brings down oil prices he comes out with an announcement to increase the minimum support price, the procurement price of sugarcane to help ease the burden of sugarcane growers. Our Chief Minister has also implemented, as announced on the day when he took over as the head of the Government, the low-price rice scheme to sell rise at Rs.2/- per Kilogramme through Public Distribution System benefiting the people living below poverty line. Thus, Dr. Kalaignar has been providing an excellent Administration in Tamil Nadu. People living below poverty line are getting 20 Kilogrammes of rice at a subsidized price of Rs.2/- per Kilogramme per family every month. If this scheme is implemented in all the states in the whole of India it will definitely help containing the price rise. I would like to impress upon the Union Government to consider implementing this scheme all over the country. Our Chief Minister Dr. Kalaignar Karunanidhi has always strived to help the farming community. Apart from increasing the sugarcane support price, he has been taking some other steps to boost the morale of the farmers. During his earlier regime he had set up ‘Uzhavar Sandhai’, direct marketing centers for agricultural produce like vegetables. Infrastructural facilties and transport facilities were provided to farmers to bring and sell agricultural produce from rural areas direct from the farm to nearby towns and cities. This step was to benefit the farmers to get a remunerative price and the consumers to get vegetable at lesser price thereby eliminating the middle men. He had established ‘Kisan Shanties’. I urge upon the Union Government to consider implementing this programme also to benefit the farmers to get good returns for their produce. More important than producing is in ensuring lucrative returns for the agricultural produce. Farmers must get good returns for the labour they put in. I have already stated about the need to introduce Kisan Shanties all over the country. Our Union Agriculture Minister Shri. Sharad Pawar was there in this House on the other day when I mentioned it in this august House. When diesel price was sought to be increased on an earlier occasion, Dr. Kalaignar provided a cushion absorbing the burden to spare the farmers from the onslaught of oil price hike. He reduced the Sales Tax on diesel so that the diesel price increase did not affect the people. He did not allow the diesel from becoming dearer to farmers. Today we find a huge slump in oil prices in the international arena. But our Union Government has brought about a reduction by way of reducing the oil price very marginally. Our UPA Government is guided by a Common Minimum Programme. There is a need to reduce the price of cooking gas, the LPG further. The per cylinder price of LPG must be reduced drastically. We must ensure that common people heave a sigh of relief and they must get the benefits of our measures. Our Communication and Information Technology Minister Shri. Dayanidhi Maran introduced a scheme ‘One Rupee One India’. From anywhere in India, the STD call charges would be one rupee per minute. This tariff has been made applicable from Kashimir to Kanyakumari. This was aimed at facilitating trading community and commercial establishments. This reduction in communication charges was intended to have its salutary effect on prices of commodities. Such viable measures in every sphere of activity must be taken. My Ramanathapuram constituency has got fishermen community in good number. They find an opportunity in the reduction of diesel price. They can be relieved to an extent to carry on their occupation. Hence I would like to thank the Union Government on behalf of the fisherman community.
Providing employment opportunities and increasing productivity will also help increase production resulting in reduction in prices. Building materials are sold at an higher price. Price increase affects this sector. Middle class people and common men are greatly affected by this. I urge upon the Union Government to curb the price rise in this sector of our economy.
I would like to draw your attention to ‘on-line’ trading that goes on now. It is a manipulative trading activity wherein huge profits are aimed at investing less. This leads to a kind of speculative trade and an indirect hoarding activity resulting in rise in price of precious metals like gold. As far as Indian women are concerned gold jewellery is both precious and sacred. But these on-line traders tinker with this gold market. Hence I urge upon the Union Government to take effective steps to curb this menace. The Government must use its strong arms to curb this online trade activity because some unscrupulous people also get in to this business giving rise to price rise including that of essential commodities. I urge upon our UPA Chairperson Madame Sonia Gandhi, our Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, our Finance Minister Mr. P.Chidambaraam and Agriculture Minister Mr. Sharad Pawar to put an end to on-line trade menace. Providing job opportunities to unemployed youth, bringing down the price of cooking gas cylinders and taking steps to increase the buying capacity of people are necessary to overcome the problems of price rise. Our Chief Minister Dr. Kalaignar Karunanidhi is taking all out efforts to create a conducive atmosphere to bring down prices especially of essential commodities. I would like to urge upon the Union Government to consider implementing some of his schemes throughout the country to be followed by several states. This will help the UPA Government to fight the problem of price rise. The benefits of UPA’s Common Minimum Programme must reach the common people and our endeavour must be to curb the price rise. With this I conclude my speech.
SHRI TATHAGATA SATPATHY (DHENKANAL): Madam Chairperson, I thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to speak.
As we all know, a badly managed company produces something that is of low quality and high price. We see something very similar with this Government. Obviously, it has become very expensive for an inefficient Government to manage and because managing this country is so expensive, the price eventually for that expense has to be borne by the aam admi. The Government speaks about aam admi. The UPA slogans are aimed at the aam admi. But if we see the way they have acted in the past two and a half years, it has primarily been against the interests of aam admi. [MSOffice41]
That is because today a situation has come where the ruling class, whether it is MLAs or MPs, has willingly or unwillingly; knowingly or unknowingly, distanced itself from the public, from the masses. They have become a class unto themselves. Earlier, the bureaucracy was a class unto itself and it used to govern. But the political side of the government was with the people. So, they used to rein in the bureaucracy. But now, under the changed circumstances, with all your globalization and liberalization, etc., the competition between bureaucracy and the political class is to out-do each other; not in representing the aam admi or the public, but to please MNCs, big companies, rich and the haves. My feeling is that today nobody represents the have-nots in the social system, in the political system, or in the bureaucratic hierarchy in India. That is the main reason why we do not see any agitation against the price rise in any corner of this country. It is not that the aam admi is not affected, but there is no leadership today which agitates. It does not suit anybody. It does not suit this side, that side, middle side, front side. Everybody has become quiet. So, obviously that kind of governance percolates down to the common man and his life becomes unbearable and expensive.
In my State of Orissa, in the last three days, the price of atta has gone up by Rs. 3. It has culminated in atta costing nearly Rs. 16.50 per kilogram; the price of suji has gone up by Rs. 2; the price of maida has gone up by Rs. 2; the price of edible oils has gone up by Rs. 4 per kilogram; the price of red chilly has gone up by Rs. 40 per kilo, to cost Rs. 100 in the last fifteen days. This shows that the market forces are having a free run in our essential commodities scenario.
The Government should never be meddlesome. We all agree to that. But the Government should also not be a mere by-stander, a spectator. That is exactly what is happening today in this country. Non-implementation of laws, like the Essential Commodities Act, shows that the Government is inept and ineffective. I am not blaming any political party. I am saying that the way in which the governance is administered in this country, it has resulted in such a situation where the Government has no teeth. We are not acting against the hoarders and profiteers any more. Making profit is acceptable, but profiteering is not. Nobody is interested to work against them. This is the situation where the political class has landed itself in India. The futures or options trading and speculation in essential commodities, in my opinion, should be immediately banned. Anti-hoarding drive could help in easing the situation.
The Government also has to re-think on the policy of procurement. You would be aware that some decades ago people all over this country were prodded or were encouraged to quit eating rice and to go in more for wheat. It is because at that time due to Green Revolution, the wheat production had gone up. But today we find that procurement of wheat has gone down. Wheat is getting more expensive. But because the wheat lobby is strong, the insistence on wheat is still retained.[MSOffice42]
States like Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu can produce enough rice to feed the whole country. But the production of rice is not being encouraged. About the procurement policy, the procurement price is not being hiked in the case of rice. If we could encourage the people of this country to go in for more rice eating, it could help us in bridging this gap.
Our Government is unwilling to buy wheat from our domestic producers at a high price. But we are more than happy to import wheat at a much higher price and that wheat, by the way, is of lower quality also. But that does not disturb us. We are happy as long as we are importing and somewhere down the line or up the line, a middleman is benefiting. Again, there is this emphasis that the wheat lobby is stronger and the rice producing States do not have the lobby. Therefore, this is being relegated to the background. … (Interruptions) In my opinion, since from the days of globalization, we are only talking of investments in soft drinks, chewing gum etc,. we should also think about inviting private investment, even international investment in building up infrastructure for storing of food.
Madam, you must have seen in your constituency, if you would ever visit the FCI godowns, you will find the way the maintenance is done, the way the ceilings are leaking, the way the flooring has virtually vanished, rats, moisture, etc. that are destroying the items that are stored there. But we do not take any pains to upgrade our storage facilities. On the other hand, the Government has set itself into such a mode that it allows a certain percentage of wastage although in today’s situation with the transport system and improvement in storage facilities, if it could be worked out, it could help in saving that percentage. But because we simply write it off that this is a percentage which will be wasted, we do not bother to check whether in reality that percentage is getting wasted or not. That is also hiking up the prices of many essential commodities even though we find that in reality, there is no such wastage. The wastage quantities have gone down and there is profiteering in that also.
Our hon. Minister of Agriculture is a person who has excelled in the world of cooperative movements. If he could think, he has the ability, he has the vision and he can easily do it. If he thinks of subsidizing cold storages especially their electricity consumption, their electricity bills to a great extent, this would help in preserving a lot of vegetables and fruits and that would also ease the prices.
One of our colleagues was talking about rise in prices of fruits and vegetables during festival times. It is that particular problem that could be solved by cold storages. But we know the availability of electricity and the rise in price, for example, extreme price of electricity is making cold storages totally unviable. The Government must come up with the plan. The hon. Minister of Agriculture is somebody who is capable of doing it, of coming up with the plan. If you can subsidize fertilizers, if America can subsidize cold storages and storage facilities, we should also consider it. So, instead of thinking about GATT and WTO, we should also think of subsidizing the end part of the agricultural system. … (Interruptions) Madam, what we find is that if we look into it a little more in detail, we can find out that who is helped by the price rise. Is it helping the farmer? The answer definitely will be no. It is not helping the farmer.[a43]
So, who is it helping? It is not helping the Government. The Government would definitely try to restrict the rise in prices. It is not helping the farmer who is producing the foodstuff. So, eventually it is the middlemen, the business community, who are benefiting the most from price rise and this is because of poor logistic. The Government also has to ensure that the logistic situation in this country improves.
17.16 hrs. (Mr. Deputy-Speaker in the Chair)
The Government should consider paying more to the farmers while procuring the foodstuff from them. This will help the farmer and keep the Government buffered against times of shortages. Procurement at the right price and right time, in sufficient quantities, will prevent hoarding by middlemen and the Government should be the hoarding agent. The Government should control the prices by having enough food stock. This will, in turn, stabilize the market psychologically.
Sir, the bare truth is that no party or no political person represents the Aam Aadmi and least of all the one group or the one conglomerate that is ruling this country now. The Aam Aadmi, for them, is dead and gone. Their slogan is mostly aimed at quietening the Opposition, but not for looking after the poor person who lives in this country. Therefore, a time has come, a time of reckoning, where we have to rethink. The Government, in my opinion, today does not represent the people. We are all victims of price rise because the people who govern this country are bureaucrats and no matter which political party sits in the Treasury Benches, they go out of their way to support this bureaucracy and eventually suppress the common man, the man on the street.
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Before I call the next hon. Member to speak, I would like to inform that I have a list of more than 21 hon. Members who want to participate in this debate. So, I request you to be very brief in making speeches. It will be better if you give suggestions to the hon. Minister.
Now, I call Shri Ajoy Chakraborty to speak.
SHRI AJOY CHAKRABORTY (BASIRHAT): Mr. Deputy-Speaker, Sir, in every Session of Parliament, whether during the regime of the NDA Government or during the regime of the UPA Government, we are discussing about price rise. This is the vital problem in our country now.
Sir, some friends from that side try to speak that only during the UPA regime the prices are going up. This is not a fact. Price rise has started during the regime of NDA Government and it is continuing even now. The initiator of this discussion was very much frustrated. I also feel very much frustrated with the speaker from the main Opposition Party, who was the second speaker on this subject. Mr. Anant Kumar had chosen to attack the Communists, but he has not chosen to attack the smugglers, hoarders, black marketers and speculators who are responsible for price rise, because they are their friends. Mr. Anant Kumar is not here. He should learn communism. Our duty is to unite the people, but their duty is to divide the people of the country. This is the basic difference between us and them.
SHRI RAJIV RANJAN SINGH ‘LALAN’ (BEGUSARAI): Sir, he should talk about price rise. … (Interruptions)
SHRI AJOY CHAKRABORTY : He has not talked about price rise. He has quoted the speeches of Shri Baradhan and the Polit Bureau Statement of the CPI (M). … (Interruptions)
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Please do not disturb him.
SHRI AJOY CHAKRABORTY : Sir, the Food Corporation of India is not purchasing essential commodities from the farmers, from the kisans at remunerative prices.[R44] When the rice, wheat and jute, etc. are produced by the farmer, Government agencies, like FCI and JCI are not coming forward to purchase the commodities from the kisan at remunerative prices. So, they have let the fate of the kisan, the producer of the wheat, producer of the rice, the producer of the jute in the hands of the speculators, in the hands of the hoarders. This is the position of the country. That is why, the farmer is not getting remunerative price.
Sir, it is very unfortunate that in our country a large number of kisans are committing suicide. It is happening everyday in so many States of the country, particularly in the State of the hon. Agriculture Minister. In the Vidarbha region, the cotton growers have committed suicide. The Prime Minister rushed to the spot and announced some package, but that has not been implemented so far. The cotton growers are totally frustrated. Not only the cotton growers, but the rice producers, the wheat producers, the vegetable producers, all of them feel frustrated. They are not getting the remunerative prices so they are compelled to commit suicide because they are not getting the food for the livelihood of their own families.
Sir, another thing is the failure of the Public Distribution System (PDS). The BPL, APL card holders, persons living below poverty level, even the lower middle class people, the middle class people are not getting rice, wheat, sugar, kerosene, etc. through PDS. But the PDS has totally collapsed. Kerosene oil is neither available in the villages nor in the urban areas. During the regime of controlled prices, the people of our country, like lower middle class, middle class and the poorer sections of the society are not getting the essential commodities for their daily livelihood from the PDS. It has totally collapsed. So, the Government should seriously look into the matter to strengthen the PDS and should open more branches of PDS throughout the country so that the people can get sufficient quantity of essential commodities.
One hon. Member just now mentioned that there are not sufficient number of godowns and cold storages available in the country. The farmers produce wheat, potato, pulses, different types of vegetables, fruits, etc. but there is no place to keep them in the godowns or cold storages. I agree with him that the Government should construct sufficient number of godowns and cold storages and the farmers should be allowed to use them at subsidized rates. The charges for the energy connection, etc. of the cold storages are very high. The Government should look into the matter and provide them all these facilities at subsidized rates so that the farmer can preserve their commodities in these storages. The Government should come forward in this regard for the benefit of the people.
Now, I would like to speak about forward trading policy. That has been an initiated by the then NDA Government and this Government is toeing the idea of forward trading policy. It is also a fact. As per the forward trading policy, the hoarders, the speculators and the black marketeers are exporting the essential com[r45] modities.
They are importing foodgrains and our people are not getting any rice, wheat, pulses, atta, sugar or any other essential commodities or different types of vegetables. This Government has initiated the forward trading policy and it has also termed that policy for exporting these types of essential commodities. That is also another reason. We need not speak much. If we go to the market, we see what is the difference in the rate of pulses. Last month if we purchased pulses, its price may be jumping day by day. Not only pulses, but every commodity like atta, suji, pulses, sugar, potato, onion, brinjal and everything is beyond the capacity of the common people. It is not only beyond the capacity of poor people but even it is beyond the capacity of the lower middle class people and middle class people to purchase essential commodities for the livelihood of their families. It is a difficult task for them. That is why, it is not the question of this Party or that Party; it is the question of the livelihood of the countrymen; it is the question of survival of the countrymen. It is because we are facing irreparable loss and injury; common man is facing irreparable loss and injury due to the price rise. Price is going up every day; it has reached up the sky. Nobody knows who will control the price rise, who will control the smugglers, speculators and hoarders.
I think, the Government has tremendous responsibility to look into the matter. But we cannot shift our responsibility; we cannot avoid our responsibility to cast blame on the Government. It is our obligatory duty. All the MPs who are representing different political parties should look into the matter together to save the people, to save our aam aadmi from the price rise, from this plight. It is our duty to remove the plight of the people. I hope, our hon. Agriculture Minister is very much efficient. I have no doubt, but I am sorry to say that his State is badly affected. The farmers of his State are badly affected. So, we should seriously look into the matter. The Government should take action against the speculators, black marketers, and hoarders. They should take the responsibility; they should take the serious steps to curb the price rise, to save the plight of the people of the country. I hope, cutting across the Party line, we all should cooperate with the Government to curb the price rise, to save the plight of the people of the country from price rise to remove the plights of the countrymen.
The discussion will be concluded tomorrow. Zero Hour notice will be taken up after six o’clock today. Reply to the debate on price rise will be given on 4th December. I would also like to request the hon. Members that those who want to lay their speeches can do so and that will form part of the proceedings.
I would now request Shrimati Preneet Kaur to speak.
SHRI B.K. HANDIQUE: Let me get the information. … (Interruptions)
SHRI B.K. HANDIQUE: Sir, I will get back to the House. Let me get the information. … (Interruptions)
SHRI B.K. HANDIQUE: I have to find out. … (Interruptions)
SHRI B.K. HANDIQUE: Sir, it is the usual practice to give it in both Hindi and English. Let me find out as to why it has not been given in Hindi and come back to the House. … (Interruptions)
SHRIMATI PARAMJIT KAUR GULSHAN (BHATINDA) : Thank you, Sir, for giving me the opportunity to participate in the discussion on the subject of ‘Rise in the prices of essential commodities’ under Rule-193. Sir, Shri Chinta Mohan has expressed his concern regarding the rise in prices of essential commodities but in a clever move he has congratulated the Chairman of the UPA Madam Sonia Gandhi for bringing down the price of Petrol and Diesel by Rs.2/- and Re.1/- respectively. However, Shri Chinta Mohan has conveniently forgotten the steep hike in the price of Petrol and Diesel in the last two and a half years. The reduction in the price of Petrol and Diesel is not substantial and therefore, will not have any impact on the common man.
As reported in the newspapers, the Government has claimed that the Growth Rate of economy has reached a healthy 8%. But, the common man does not read newspapers. Moreover, the ground reality is different. The common man knows nothing about the Growth Rate or Sensex. But, he is affected by the steep hike in the prices of all essential commodities like wheat, salt, vegetable-oil, sugar, jaggery, vegetables etc. These are the things that are used by the common man. Any increase in the prices of these commodities hits the common man hard. In the present scenario, the common man is finding it difficult to make both ends meet. Due to the sky-rocketing prices, the common man cannot afford these items of daily use. As per the U.S.A., India has become an economic power. It is emerging as a super-power. However, the common man is at a loss to understand this. A handful of rich and influential people have got richer. They have accumulated all the wealth. They live in big bungalows. They drive costly cars. But, the vast majority is poor and they have become poorer. India cannot be dubbed as a super-power and an economic power on the basis of only a handful rich people. The so-called economic upsurge is an illusion.
*English translation of the speech originally delivered in Punjabi.
About two and a half years ago, when the U.P.A. Government came to power at the Centre, they had coined a catchy slogan “UPA is with common man”. The Government had made tall promises at that time that it will rein in the spiralling prices and check inflation. The people were taken in by these assurances and promises and voted for the Congress Party. Time and again, these promises were repeated in the Parliament. The Government assured the people that concrete steps will be taken to control the hike in the prices of all essential commodities. However, nothing tangible was done by the Government. The prices of all essential commodities increased by leaps and bounds. The Government claims that inflation is under control. However, all the statistics reeled out by the Government is nothing but a jugglery of figures. The common man is feeling the pinch due to the hike in the prices of all essential commodities. He is bearing the brunt of the price hike. Items like computers and mobile phones have become cheaper. But the prices of essential commodities have gone through the roof. Life has become a veritable hell for the common man.
As per the Government figures, 9 out of 10 rural families and 7 out of 10 urban families have to spend 60% of their income in fulfilling the needs related to food-grains. What will the common man do if the prices of food-grains go beyond his reach? Hunger and starvation are writ large on the face of common man. The common man and the farmers are committing suicide. It is a result of exorbitant rise in prices of essential commodities. The price of pulses has increased to Rs.50/- or more per Kg. the price of flour has also risen considerably. Due to paucity of time, I cannot reel out the rates of all the essential items. Sugar is being sold at Rs.25/- per Kg. Even a match-box costs Rs.10/-. The Common man is at his wit’s end. He does not know what to do. All items of daily need like medicines, cloths, LPG, vegetable oil, petrol, diesel etc. have gone beyond the reach of the common man. Hefty bills of water and electricity stare the common man in the face. The prices of items needed for construction of house have also soared. The common man is at the receiving end.
Sir, the quantity of food-grains being distributed through the PDS system is being reduced. Subsidy is being done away with. Figures are being fudged. The ground reality is that the vast majority of people are facing hunger and starvation.
It is generally said that Punjab is a prosperous state. But, in reality, even the people of Punjab are finding it difficult to sustain themselves due to the exorbitant increase in the price of essential commodities.
Sir, the flawed economic policies are responsible for the steep rise in prices of food-grains and other items. Due to these policies, wealthy business houses and vested interests monopolise the market and indulge in profiteering. An artificial scarcity of things is created. It boosts black-marketing of items. Liberalization and privatization are the twin evils of this flawed economic policy.
Sir, the Government will have to take stringent action against these forces to bring the prices of essential commodities under control. Those who indulge in black-marketing should be brought to book. The farmers should be provided with good quality seeds, fertilizers and insecticides at economical rates. The Public Distribution System should be improved and streamlined. The role of middle-men and brokers should be minimized. More and more fair-price shops should be opened. Only those items should be imported which are available at economic rates.
Sir, food-grains lying in our buffer stock become unfit for human consumption or are eaten by rats. Those who are responsible for this criminal waste and negligence should be punished. Food-grains should be distributed timely among the poor and the needy. The farmers should be encouraged and incentives should be provided to them so that they become the harbinger of a second ‘Green Revolution’. Customs and excise duty on various items should be reduced.
Sir, if the Government does not take immediate steps to bring down the prices of essential commodities, it will become very difficult for the common man to make both ends meet. People will make fun of democracy in India. India will fail to tread the path of economic progress and the common man will lose faith in democracy.
DR. SEBASTIAN PAUL (ERNAKULAM): Rising prices of essential commodities has to be viewed in the context of fostering the cause of distributive justice. By fulfilling the obligation towards ensuring distributive justice, the government incurs food subsidies. Ensuring price stability is the objective of food security system. Public Distribution System is the basic plank in addressing the issue of food insecurity as well as rising prices. It has emerged as the most significant instrument in government policy to moderate open-market prices and to ensure food security at assured prices. The PDS has been useful in containing prices and preventing localized food shortages. But there are states where the poor has no satisfactory access to the PDS. States like Andhra Pradesh and Kerala are exceptions. But in deficit states such as Bihar, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, which have a high incidence of hunger and poverty, the benefit of the PDS is not reaching the poor.
The annual inflation rate for essential commodities has been less than that of the overall index, which could partly reflect the importance attached by the government to keeping the prices of essential items under check. The Economic Survey 2005-06 points out that 30 essential commodities important for the common man registered an annual inflation rate of 3.8 per cent on January 21, 2006 compared to 6.1 per cent a year ago. This is a welcome sign and we have to sustain this trend. Figures show that rural poverty is declining; but the number of rural poor is still high. Removal of poverty and improving the quality of life are the basic objective of good governance. The French revolutionaries proclaimed the lofty ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity; but the revolution was triggered by hunger. Effective government intervention in the foodgrain sector is essential to contain rising prices of essential commodities.
SHRI S.K. KHARVENTHAN (PALANI) : Sir, I thank the Chair for giving me the opportunity to participate in this discussion on rise in prices of essential commodities. This discussion has been mooted in this House by my esteemed colleague, Shri Chinta Mohan to highlight the problems faced by the common man due to the increase of prices of essential commodities like foodgrains, vegetables, edible oils, fruits, kerosene and other items.
The people of this Indian subcontinent are faced with this problem and we are not going into the question of whether it is due to the omissions and commissions in the management of the Government at the Centre or in the States. This House is now deliberating on the ways and means to overcome the problem of price rise. Hon. Members are suggesting some measures to be implemented by the Government to contain the price rise. The labour of the farmers whenever it results in plentiful growth and abundant availability of food grains and other agricultural produce leads to enough of supply to meet the demands. Common man is not affected by price rise during that period.
We find a trend in increased sugar price. This is because sugarcane cultivation has been greatly hampered this year. In all the States where sugarcane is traditionally cultivated, we find a marked reduction in growth due to multifarious factors like vagaries of weather. The reduction in sugarcane production has resulted in sugar scarcity giving rise to price rise. When it comes to vegetables, we find price rise in an alarming proportions. Instead of going into the question of comparing it with previous years let us try to put our head and heart together to overcome this problem and avoid it in future. Ryot Bazaar, that is, Ulavar Santhai, has been set up in Tamil Nadu to facilitate the farmers to take their agriculture produce directly to the markets where they themselves can sell it
*English translation of the speech originally delivered in Tamil.
and ensure remunerative prices for their produce. Farmers are provided with transport facility and market facility to take their produce like vegetables from the rural areas to the nearby towns. Quality vegetables are available to the buyers at a cheaper rates because there are no middlemen and coolies in between. This scheme has been successfully introduced by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Dr. Karunanidhi. I wish this scheme is introduced all over the country to benefit the consumers in small towns and bigger cities as it benefits both the consumer and the growers in a big way saving a lot of trouble ensuring quality supply and remunerative returns.
Oddanchattram in my constituency is the biggest vegetable market in the entire subcontinent. Drumstick grows in a big way in our area. A bundle of hundred drumsticks cost a mere ten rupees. Whereas in bigger cities it is sold at an exorbitant price. For instance in Delhi the Drumsticks are sold at a rate of ten rupees per piece. This price rise is due to transportation. Road transport is dearer now due to oil prices. Moving goods by lorries is not cheaper any more. Hence, a coordinated approach should be made to move essential commodities by rail as freight moved from place to place by the Railways. This reduced expenditure on transporting can have its cascading effect on prices. This may help arresting the upward trend in price rise. Hence, the availability and demand situation must be closely monitored and essential commodities must be moved as railway freight from one place to another from places where commodities are available in plenty to places where they are scarcely available. Railways must be provided with facilities to move essential commodities like vegetables in specially designed wagons with refrigeration facility. Government must come forward to procure directly from farmers. This would help easing the situation and providing quality vegetables at lesser rates to the consumers.
Many of my esteemed colleagues have pointed out the problems faced by the agriculturists. They even pointed out the heavy debt burden on them resulting in suicidal deaths. They were referring to Vidarbha region in Maharashtra and some districts in Karnataka and Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. Non-availability of agricultural inputs like quality seeds are the main cause behind this vicious problem. Loans are not available through cooperative societies in time to procure agricultural inputs like fertilizers and insecticides. So they are driven to their wits end and are forced to take loans from moneylenders at higher rate of interest. Crop failure and non-availability of remunerative price disable the farmers to pay back the loans they had taken. This result in depressing conditions and suicidal deaths.
Our Agricultural Minister has woken up to this reality and he has elaborated in this august House as to why and how these farmers’ suicidal deaths are occurring. Today, we find at least 75 per cent of our farmers are going in for availing credit from private moneylenders at exorbitant interest rates. This is the trend available in the whole of the country. Our Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh personally visited the death affected farmers in the Vidarbha region to gather from them their woes. He has come out with special packages for farmers living in those worst affected areas. This Government is very much alive to the reality and are taking effective steps to overcome problems as and when they occur.
Some of the Members from the Opposition Benches tried to blame this Government for the rise in prices of essential commodities like food grains and vegetables as though this problem had arisen only now. I would like to point out the root cause of this problem was the wrong policies adopted by the previous NDA regime and this trend has started right from their days. There must be a monitoring mechanism to see that proper distribution state-wise is ensured. For instance, inter-state restrictions were removed by the NDA regime to help the middlemen. This resulted in the unscrupulous elements escalating the prices and dictating terms creating artificial scarcity. This was done to help the middlemen. This has further resulted in the depletion of our food grains stock position. The procurement of food grains by FCI was seriously hampered. It has taken almost for this Government to set right the wrong that has been committed by the previous NDA regime.
Only when agricultural production is augmented we can arrest the trend in prices. Strengthening the hands of farmers is the need of the hour. More and more of land should be brought under cultivation. Wasteland that can be converted to become cultivable lands must be looked into. Government must help farmers in this regard. For instance, 14 per cent of interest has to be paid for a loan to buy a tractor whereas zero per cent loans are available to buy cars in towns and cities. This trend must change and farmers interest should be taken care of.
My colleague, Shri Ananth Kumar from the Opposition Benches was referring to some vote bank politics. And also note bank politics. Probably he has forgotten the fact that the entire country was watching his leader …(not recorded) taking money. He was seen taking currency notes. That is note politics. Entire world was watching his taking lakhs of rupees. Let him not criticize Congress and try to paint a distorted picture due to his misjudgement of facts. We must evolve serious strategies to curb price rise and we must help middle-class people and the common man.
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER : The name should be expunged from the records as he is not present in the House.
*SHRI S.K. KHARVENTHAN (PALANI) : I would like to reiterate that our Government is serious and determined to bring down prices and contain inflation. The Government has sent directives to all the nationalized banks to extend loan liberally to the farmers. Our Government under the stewardship of Dr. Manmohan Singh and led by our Madam Chairperson, Shrimati Sonia Gandhi are taking effective steps to protect the interests of common man. That is why, they have reduced today the price of petrol by Rs.2 and diesel by Rs.1. Our Government duly elected by the people is working for the people protecting their interests. Expressing my strong desire that further steps will continue to bring down prices further. Let me conclude my speech.
* English translation of the speech originally delivered in Tamil.
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Nothing will go on record.
(Interruptions) … *
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: The hon. Minister of State in the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs would like to say something.
SHRI B.K. HANDIQUE : Sir, in response to the questions raised by hon. Member Shri Ram Kripal Yadav and hon. Member Shri Devendra Prasad Yadav, I discussed the matter with the hon. Minister Shri A.R. Antulay. He took note of the serious concerns expressed by the hon. Members of both the Houses. Since only the English version was ready, he Tabled the English version today. The Hindi version, which is under preparation, will be laid as soon as it is completed. For doing this, he got the waiver from both the hon. Chairman of Rajya Sabha and the hon. Speaker of Lok Sabha.
SHRI SHRINIWAS DADASAHEB PATIL (KARAD): I am very much thankful to you Sir, for allowing me to participate in the discussion under Rule 193 regarding rise in the prices of essential commodities.
I am here only to bring to your kind notice the problems of sugarcane growers. While the prices of other commodities are going up, the sugar prices are going down. As I come from the area where there are farmers’ cooperative sugar factories, I would talk about them; in the international market the rates were about Rs.3,000 per quintal, but now the rates are about Rs.1,500 per quintal. Day-by-day, the prices of sugar are going down in world and domestic market..
The production of sugar is likely to be around 230 lakh metric tonnes this years and the surplus of last year is about 40 lakh metric tonnes and so, the total stock by the end of this sugar year would be around 270 lakh metric tonnes; the domestic consumption is likely to be around 190 lakh metric tonnes per annum. So, there will be a surplus of about 80 lakh metric tonnes.
So, unless and until export of sugar is promoted, it is impossible to maintain the rates. The sugarcane growers are now on the streets because they are getting less and less prices for their produce. I would be grateful, if some packages like incentive schemes like ocean freight, transport subsidy from his factory to harbour, etc. are given. They should be protected. Unless and until the sugarcane growers are protected, the situation cannot be improved and there will be less of sugarcane crops. I have seen that every three years, there is less of sugarcane crop and so, the rates go up. In the nearby country, the sugar rates are Rs.40-Rs.50 per kg. In order to avoid this, here we should support the export of sugar and some subsidies should be given so as to protect the sugarcane growers. If it is done, I am 100 per cent sure that we can maintain the prices of sugar throughout the country in coming year.
In fact, middlemen should be removed. The person who grows either food crop oil seeds or sugarcane and produces sugar through cooperative sugar factories should be dealt with directly and fair price should be given to his produce. If the prices go up, the Government should purchase sugar from him and distribute at subsidized rate through PDS.
I sincerely feel that we should give support to the sugarcane growers so that they get a fair price. We should also see that sugar is exported to maintain the prices.