With the price rise turning into a political issue, Chief Ministers of the Congress-ruled States on Wednesday sought to apportion blame on the previous National Democratic Alliance Government for the situation. They suggested that the controls on the Essential Commodities Act removed by the NDA Government must be reconsidered.
“They (Chief Ministers) requested that the order of the NDA Government dated February 2002 rescinding all Control Orders under the Essential Commodities Act be reconsidered, and State Governments empowered to intervene in cases of hoarding of essential commodities,” the Congress party said in a statement after the meeting called by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to review the steps taken by the Congress-ruled States to moderate the recent increase in prices of essential commodities.
Another significant request made by the Chief Ministers was to better regulate forward trading in foodgrains and some other essential commodities to curb excessive speculation.
The BJP-led NDA Government had issued an order removing of licensing regulating stocks limits and movement restriction especially of foodgrains, which allowed dealers to freely buy, use or consume, stock, sell, transport, distribute or dispose of any quantity of paddy/rice, wheat, coarse grain, sugar, edible oil seeds without any regulation, or permit or licence.
On her part, Congress president Sonia Gandhi advised the Chief Ministers to continue to take measures to strengthen the Public Distribution System (PDS) and ensure that the PDS functions effectively and provides essential commodities to the common people at reasonable prices.
Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who briefed later, said the Chief Ministers assured that they will monitor the price situation closely and take further steps as may be found necessary.
The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr. Mukherjee and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.