Opposition walks out from LS over inferior wheat

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New Delhi, Nov 23 (UNI) The BJP-led Opposition today staged a walk-out in the Lok Sabha in protest against the government's refusal to order a CBI inquiry into import of inferior quality wheat at a higher price than the ruling domestic price.

Raising the issue during zero hour through a call attention motion, BJP deputy leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra said the wheat supplied to the below poverty line (BPL) families under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS)was ''rotten and sub-standard''.

Several states such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Kerala had complained about this to the Centre.

He said though red wheat was not liked by the people in many parts of the country, the government had imported this variety at a price higher than the ruling price for domestic wheat.

Mr Malhotra alleged that the government had rejected the lowest tender price of 263 dollar per tonne during a tendering process and later purchased at a rate of 350 dollar per metric tonne after re-tendering.

Replying to the points raised by Mr Malhotra, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said wheat had to be imported due to huge demand and supply gap.

He maintained that the wheat distributed through the TPDS was not inferior quality. ''The complaint was about preference. Many states did not prefer the red wheat.'' In this context, he pointed out that joint inspection and sampling of the stocks of wheat in FCI godowns were done by the representatives of the FCI and concerned states before the wheat was issued from the FCI godowns.

''Before the imported wheat is allowed to be discharged from the ships at Indian ports, its quality is tested by the authorities competent under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act and by the Plant Quarantine authorities,'' Mr Pawar said, adding that only if the imported wheat was found conforming to all the specifications laid down, it was allowed to be discharged from the ships.

He said while making allocation of wheat under the TPDS, no distinciton was made between the imported and indigenous wheat.

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