Why sugar, food grains are so costly? Oppn demands a JPC probe

We demand a JPC to enquire into the scams in wheat, rice, pulses and sugar: Sushma Swaraj

PTI | February 25, 2010


Will the bitter truth about the sweet sugar come out?
Will the bitter truth about the sweet sugar come out?

Opposition on Thursday sought to puncture the economic growth story, charging the government with "failure" to check the price spiral and demanded a parliamentary probe into a "scam" in essential commodities like wheat, rice, pulses and sugar.

Launching a scathing attack in both the houses of Parliament on the issue of price rise, opposition BJP and the Left alleged that the UPA was indulging in blame game instead of controlling runaway inflation, particularly of food items.

After stalling proceedings for two days on the issue, the Opposition mounted a fresh offensive on the government through a structured debates, simultaneously in both houses which skipped the question hour.

The government came under attack on a day when the pre-Budget Economic Survey painted a rosy picture of the economy projecting a growth of 7.2 per cent for the current financial year and 8.75 per cent in the next fiscal.

Despite some measures like export checks and import liberalisation, food inflation is ruling at 17.58 per cent for the week-ended February 13.

Leading the attack in the Lok Sabha, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj said, "We demand a JPC to enquire into the scams in wheat, rice, pulses and sugar". She said the probe should find out why decisions which led to "scams" were taken.

She quoted a Bollywood film dialogue about 'maal idhar se udhar karna' (wheeling-dealing) and said "the government is doing this and the matter should be investigated".

Swaraj claimed the government imported and exported sugar "simultaneously". The sweetener was being "exported at Rs 12.5 per kg and imported at Rs 36 per kg at the same time."

She said total profits of 33 listed sugar mills jumped from Rs 30 crore in October-December 2008 to Rs 901 crore in the same period next year. "It is a jump of 2900 percent.

"This is a scam and it needs to be investigated".

Swaraj said the Food Security Bill would be a futile effort if the government did not have correct figures of those who should be covered under it.

In the Rajya Sabha, Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley said the situation reflected "complete inaction" of the Manmohan Singh government and lack of coordination between Prime Minister's Office and various ministries.

Jaitley said the statement in Congress mouthpiece, Congress Sandesh, that "some practical difficulties in coordination between the PMO and various ministries are natural in a coalition government" was a confession of lack of cohesion between ministers responsible for controlling prices.

"Leadership is not an art of making compromises for sake of coalition," he said. "We cannot live with a system where PMO feels helpless."

Slamming the Centre for indulging in blame game for price spiral, the Left said the government will have to make a policy shift to arrest the situation, which it termed as a fall-out of economic liberalisation.

"Government is not ready to accept its failure but only engaging in blame game. Do not make it an issue of ego. You will have to make a policy shift," Brinda Karat (CPI-M) said.

Alleging scandal in sugar prices, she said government's "manipulative policy" is responsible for it and demanded constitution of a JPC or a white paper to "expose this and make someone accountable".

She alleged that sugar mill owners profited hugely at the cost of farmers and consumers.

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