7pc inflation at three year high, Sonia asks to strenghten PDS

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New Delhi, Apr 4 (UNI) With the inflation rate surging to a three year high at 7.0 per cent on account of higher food and metal prices, the government today said it would not tolerate any hoarding and profiteering of steel, cement and foods and toughest measures would be taken in such cases.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi expressed serious concern asking the states to exercise their powers to control blackmarketing and hoarding and strengthen the Public Distribution System (PDS) to control the price rise.

Talking to reporters after launching a three-day India@60 trade and cultural fair in Singapore today, Union Commerce Minister Kamal Nath said the Indian government was concerned about the impact on India of the global economic slowdown and the surging commodity prices.

In her first public reaction on this issue, Ms Gandhi said, "This continues to cause us great concern," while attributing the increase in the rate of inflation to international developments in recent weeks.

"I am aware that our Prime Minister is very sensitive to this issue and that he knows very well our party's thinking," she said in the latest issue of the Party's mouthpiece "Congress Sandesh." Ms Gandhi pointed out that the thinking of the party was that "while higher growth is essential, we must at the same time ensure that the prices of essential commodities remain affordable to all sections of society." Asserting that the Congress-led UPA government had been discharging its powers to control speculation, she asked the state governments to strengthen the Public Distribution System (PDS).

"Strengthening of the PDS is something that the state governments are responsible for and is something that they must make a priority." BJP General Secretary Arun Jaitley said it was a satire that the management of the government headed by an economist where the prices of essential food articles, rents, housing costs had all gone up. If the wholesale price index itself is seven per cent than one can only think of the oppression the prices could make at the consumer levels.

He said the UPA is showing no such foresight and has left the Aam Admi to fend for himself with no governmental support.

"If the inflation in the present regime has become an unlegislated tax on the masses and the problem can only get confounded in the future and the party will take the issue to the people throughout the country", he added.

In a separate statement, BJP spokesman Ravishankar Prasad attacked the dismal track record of the UPA governance in containing the inflation, price rise, food and national security.

However, Tamil Nadu BJP vice-president H Raja criticised the Centre for its inept handling to contain the hike in prices of essential commodities.

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