CPM hits backs at Congress on 'food riots' in West Bengal

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New Delhi, Oct 23 (UNI) Taking umbrage at the Congress Party's statement on ''food riots'' in West Bengal, the CPM today hit back at the party, saying it was both ''intemperate and ill-informed'' and betrayed ''total disconnect'' between the Congress perceptions and the reality of widespread poverty.

''There are no food riots in West Bengal although some elements who want a 'mahajot' are doing everything to incite violence on the issue of ration distribution so as to disrupt the entire system,'' the CPM Polit Bureau said in a statement here.

The CPM, a major outside supporter of the Congress-led UPA coalition government at the Centre, asserted that the West Bengal government had taken stringent measures to stamp out corruption in theN ration distribution system as evident by the large number of raids and arrests over the last year.

''However, the major problem is the huge cuts in allocations to the APL (Above Poverty Line) sections by the Central Government, bringing it down to just over three per cent of the initial allocation,'' it said.

In a hard-hitting statement, the Left party said it was an indication of the total disconnect between the Congress perceptions and the reality of widespread poverty that the Congress states that ''it is an anachronism to even talk of food riots in a country which is proud to flaunt a booming economy.'' In a rather caustic observation, the CPM said unfortunately, in the 'booming economy', 3500 tribal children in five districts of Maharashtra died due to malnutrition last year.

''The Congress would do well to also study the recent report of the National Family Health Service which shows that malnutrition has increased in the last few years. Indeed, India has the highest number of malnourished people in the whole world,'' it said.

''This is the reason why the CPI(M) has been demanding reversal of food policies from the targeted system to a universal system of PDS as recommended by the official committee.'' Yesterday, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi had said the food riots in the Left-ruled West Bengal were a matter of serious concern and reflected the enormous deficiencies in the availability, distribution, pricing and regulatory systems in that State.

''Those who profess concern for the poorest of the poor should immediately set their own house in order. They have to urgently address the legitimate concerns of the deprived and the needy,'' he said.

''All other slogans, shibboleths and controversies are secondary compared to the basic food needs of the people of West Bengal,'' Mr Singhvi said, adding that the UPA Government was ready to extend all assistance to the State Government.

UNI

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