By Sanjay Kumar
New Delhi, Apr.24 : Pinning the UPA Government down on the price rise issue, the Communist Party of India (CPI) today said that it is not doing enough to bring the inflation under control.
Addressing a news conference here, CPI General Secretary C.K Chandrapan accused the Government of ignoring the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, which is headed by CPI leader S. Sudhakhar Reddy.
Chandrapan said that as an immediate measure, the Government should announce a ban on futures trading, strengthen the Public Distribution System (PDS) and restore the food quota, especially for the state of Kerala, where the Centre had reduced it by 84 percent.
Chandrapan also charged the Government with attempting to curtail the current Budget Session of Parliament. If this was so, he said it was highly condemnable, as curtailing it would result in key Bills like the Womens Reservation Bill and the Protection of Communal Rights Bill not being passed as promised.
On Wednesday, Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram told the Rajya Sabha that the Government is looking at legal and administrative measures to deal with cement manufacturers and steel producers to contain inflation.
He said the steel producers and the cement manufacturers are to some extent behaving like a cartel.
"The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission MRTPC is conducting an inquiry into the allegations of cartelisation and the government would look at legal and administrative provisions to deal with the situation," he added.
"Containment of inflation remains high on the agenda of the government. We have taken a set of fiscal measures and are contemplating some more measures," he said.
He added, "Anti-inflationary policies of the government include strict fiscal discipline, rationalization of duties of essential items, effective supply-demand management of essential commodities through liberal tariff, trade policies and procurement through public sector agencies."
The monetary policy of Reserve Bank of India has attempted to contain inflationary expectations arising out of uncertainties in domestic and international environment, he added.
RBI in the third quarter review of the annual policy statement of 2007-08 has mentioned that increase in international prices of oil, food grains and other commodities are due to increase in demand.
The weekly inflation rate of wholesale price index (WPI) stood at 6.7 percent as on March 15, 2008 and reached 7.4 per cent on March 29. However, it has come down to 7.1 percent as on April 5.
On Monday, United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) and Left parties' leaders courted arrest to protest the price rise. They also held a conference to discuss their strategy to corner the Congress-led UPA government over inflation.
UNPA chairman Mulayam Singh Yadav and Communist Party of India (CPI) senior leader A B Bardhan co-chaired the conference, which was attended by party presidents of the constituents of the UNPA and well-known economists.
Earlier, the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, had written to the State Governments, asking them to take strong measures against hoarding, believed to be one of the main reasons for short supply and rising prices. He also asked the State Governments to ensure that there is an adequate supply of food grains.
The inflation rate has nearly doubled since December 2007, but the Central Government said that it could bring it down to five per cent within the next two months.