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MPs to debate ‘burning’ issue of rise in food prices
New Delhi, Nov 26 (IANS):
Published on 26 Nov. 2009 10:56 PM IST
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Parliament Thursday debated the rising food prices, but very few MPs were present in the Lok Sabha to discuss the issue. Since parliament opened last week, opposition parties had been demanding a “long debate” over the “burning issue” of rising prices of essential commodities. But when it finally happened, most MPs were absent. At one point during the debate, only 80 of the 545 Lok Sabha members were in the house. And the presence never crossed 90 till 4 p.m. after the debate began at 1.30 p.m. Even Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani was absent and so was his deputy Sushma Swaraj and most Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members. Among the treasury benches were a few ministers including Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who was the target of criticism from the MPs who spoke. The issue has brought together adversaries like the Left parties, the BJP, the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal of Ajit Singh, who was also absent. BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi in his long speech alleged that the government was “ignoring the farming community and deliberately not allowing the country to be self-sufficient” in food. “Your pricing policy is anti-people,” Joshi said. “You are serving your friends in the US at the cost of the poor.” Quoting an article by veteran journalist and former MP Kuldip Nayar, the BJP leader said the government had not realised that the growth rate doesn’t reduce poverty and hunger. “It aggravates both.” He said the model of industrial agriculture and globalised trade on food are responsible for the hunger and farmers “inevitably depend on debt”. “You are putting at stake our sovereignty by continuously making the country dependent on food import,” he said. “Wake up, Mr Agriculture Minister. Be courageous and tell your government that your policies are wrong.” Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said the government was ignoring India’s annual food inflation that has touched a new high. “Please, Mr Minister, tell us why is this happening. Why is India weakening day by day? Why cannot you control prices? You are known as farmers’ leader and still Indian farmers are suffering,” he said, as the minister was seen dozing off during the debate. Mulayam Singh said one-fourth of the nation’s wealth belonged to only 100 families. “How much will you help them in growing their wealth and ignoring a poor farmer?” he asked. Taking a dig at the government’s pricing policy, the Samajwadi Party leader said: “A farmer is made to sell his crop cheaply and when he goes to buy commodities, he finds them unaffordable. Why? Which policy are you following?” The house debated as India’s annual food inflation based on the official wholesale price index jumped to 15.58 percent for the week ended Nov 14, as prices of potatoes more than doubled, while onion became dearer by 27 percent over the past 52 weeks.

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