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Dispur SOS to Centre on food
GUWAHATI, JAN 8 (AGENCIES):
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Published on 8 Jan. 2010 10:52 PM IST
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A sharp rise in food prices (20 per cent in the past 12 months, say experts) has not only dampened the spirit of Bihu but also forced Dispur to send an SOS to the Centre to ensure availability of foodstocks. Sources in the food and civil supplies and consumer affairs department on Thursday said chief minister Tarun Gogoi has dashed off an SOS to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar to ensure that the state does not only get its allotted foodstocks, but that they arrive on time. Though the SOS lists the availability of all food items, the stress is on sugar and onion as the prices of these have sky rocketted, sparking resentment over the government’s inability to make them easily available. There is a shortfall of nearly 40 per cent in the monthly requirement of sugar and onions and the scarcity is being attributed to non-availability of railway rakes to ferry these items from its source of origin. The Congress fears that inaction by the government ahead of Bihu could only accentuate the feeling of disenchantment that could subsequently cost it dear in the Assembly elections. The Opposition has already made it an issue. Principal secretary, food and civil supplies and consumer affairs, S. Mewara, said several steps have been taken to provide relief to the consumers, adding that the situation would improve to a large extent by Bihu. Before sending the SOS to the PMO and the agriculture ministry, the department also wrote to the Railway Board, the FCI, the IOC and the Union ministry of civil supplies and consumer affairs to ensure adequate supply of food items. It has asked for LPG as well, as there is a 50 per cent shortage of cooking gas. The complaints arose because of reports that supply of provisions to Assam’s neighbours, Manipur and Tripura, through Lumding and to Arunachal Pradesh through Rangia was normal, unlike in Assam. “The railways have been asked to make available adequate rakes while FCI and IOC asked for adequate food allotment so that the situation returns to normal within a month. However, the availability of sugar and cooking gas has to be ensured before Bihu. If the PDS runs smoothly, then prices in the open market will automatically come down,” a source said. P. Roy, general secretary of the Sadou Guwahati Byabasai Sanstha, said situation was extremely grim and if the government did not take emergency steps such as buying on its own, making available railway rakes and cracking down on vested interests, prices will continue to soar. “Prices of sugar and onions have risen abnormally ahead of Bihu. What can we retailers do if the wholesale rates are so high? Our buying costs have gone up while our profit margins have remained the same. The railways has made only 30 per cent rakes available against our requirement in Guwahati in the past 90 days,” Roy said, welcoming the government’s step to move the Centre.

 
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