Left parties stage protest sit-in against price rise

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New Delhi, Mar 18 (UNI) Anguished over the steep rise in the prices of all essential commodities, Left parties today asked the Manmohan Singh government to strengthen the PDS, take stringent action against hoarders and ban futures trading in 25 agricultrual commodities to check spiralling inflation.

They also threatened to "unearth" the foodgrains concealed in godowns by the hoarders and black marketeers if the government did not accede to their four long-standing demands without further delay to contain price rise which had hit not only the poor but also large sections of the middle classes.

The four Left parties- the CPI(M), CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc- held a sit-in before Parliament today as part of the countrywide agitation against the government failure to check the skyrocketing prices of all essential commodities, going out of the reach of the man in the street.

Addressing the protestors near the Parliament Police Station, CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat and his CPI counterpart A B Bardhan demanded the UPA government also cut customs and excise duties on oil imports.

While Mr Karat deplored that the Manmohan Singh government instead of paying heed to their repeated requests and memorandums had chosen to reduce the foodgrains quota of the PDS for West Bengal and Kerala, Mr Bardhan warned that the Left cadres would be forced to "raid and unearth" the foodgrains concealed by the hoarders and black marketeers in their godowns.

A large number of Left MPs also participated in the dharna. They included CPI(M) MPs- Sitaram Yechury, Mrs Brinda Karat, Hannan Mollah Vijay Raghvan, Sujata C S, T K Hamza, R Rajinderan and CPI MP D Raja, Forward Bloc MP Debvrat Biswas and RSP MP Abani Roy- among others. Other Left leaders who took part included Nilotpal Basu, G Devrajan, Biman Bose, Joginder Sharma and Pushpinder Singh Grewal.

Left cadres from West Bengal and Kerala also participated in the dharna. The Left leaders bemoaned that whereas the rice quota of Kerala for PDS had been cut to the tune of 82 per cent, the wheat quota ration for West Bengal had been reduced to 50 per cent.

While dubbing the price rise as" biggest problem" before the nation, Mr Karat deplored that the UPA government had so far not done anything tangible to provide relief to the common man." This has not affected not only the rural and urban poor but also large sections of the middle classes." Mr Karat also cautioned against the government move to further hike the prices of petroleum products in view of the hike in crude prices in the international market." But we will not allow the government to do so. On the other hand the government should roll back the recent hike in prices of petrol and diesel." Mr Bardhan said not only the prices of cooking oil, atta and pulses had gone high, but the rates of tomatoes and patatoes had also hit the man in the street.

The CPI General Secretary said the" symbolic" agtiation would turn into a" nationwide militant action" if the government did not pay heed to their demands.

" Until you restore the PDS and ensure food security, you can not check price rise," Mr Bardhan said adding that the government had committed the biggest fraud in the name of making the " Above Poverty Line" ration cards. This, he said, had been done to ensure that the PDS collapsed.

He questioned the government wisdom to not provide PDS ration to those whose names had been deleted from the BPL on the ground that they had possessed a TV, a house or a latrine.

The Left leaders accused the NDA government of changing the Essential Commodities Act in a way that the hoarders and black marketeers got advantage.

Later, a delegation of the Left leaders, led by Mr Yechury, submitted a memorandum in the office of the Prime Minister.

UNI KSA Mir AS1437

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