'Rising prices a silent tsunami'

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New Delhi, Apr 24: NDA's Prime Ministerial nominee L K Advani today described the rising prices of essential commodities as a ''silent tsunami'' as the Opposition MPs formed a human chain around Parliament and later stalled the proceedings of the two Houses protesting against the government's ''abject failure'' to check inflation.

''The poorest sections of Indian society are finding their very right to life threatened,'' with even basic food items becoming unaffordable and the fruits of economic growth bypassing the common people, Mr Advani said in a statement. The Congress-led UPA government, which would complete four years in office next month, had failed on all fronts. However, its failure was ''most glaring'' in an area that affected the common man the most on a daily basis -- the prices of essential commodities and services. The family budgets of not only the poor but even the middle class had been badly eroded by the steep rise in the prices of cereals, pulses, vegetables, edible oil, sugar, milk, fruits and meat, Mr Advani said.

This had forced the poor, whose nutritional intake was already at precariously low levels, to consume less food. At the same time, several food items had either vanished or their consumption had been drastically scaled down in middle-class households.

''Thus, crores of Indian families are now groaning under the crisis of food security, owing to the total and abject failure of the UPA government to anticipate, plan and check inflationary pressures in the economy,'' the BJP leader said.

After forming the human chain, the NDA members entered their respective Houses towards the end of the question hour at 1200 hrs, raising slogans against the government and demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The presiding officers of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha adjourned the proceedings till 1400 hrs as they found it difficult to restore order.

The Opposition Leader in the Lok Sabha said in the statement that besides food, the cost of all other essential requirements such as clothing, shelter, transportation and medicine had also shot up during the four years of the UPA government.

The growing cost of education had meant that millions of young people, belonging to the poor and the middle class, could not fulfil their dream of living a better life.

The soaring prices of cement and steel, combined with higher interest rates on bank loans, had meant that millions of middle class families could no longer dream of having their own homes. The slowdown in housing construction, as also in manufacturing, had resulted in a further increase in already high levels of unemployment, he said.

The runaway rise in prices was only partially captured in the officially declared rate of inflation of 7.41 per cent at the end of March which itself was at a three-year high, Mr Advani said.

Responsible sections of the media had reported that even this figure was a gross under-declaration of the actual rate of inflation. Neither Dr Singh nor Finance Minister P Chidambaram had so far come clean on charges that the government was fudging inflation statistics, he said.

The government's failure was compounded by its apathy, insensitivity and lack of accountability. The Finance Minister, while replying to the debate in Parliament on price rise, blamed all and sundry, except the government. By calling price rise a ''global phenomenon,'' the spokesmen of the Congress had sought to belittle the seriousness of the problem that their government had created, the BJP leader said.

Mr Advani said the NDA was deeply concerned at this unprecedented situation and held the Congress responsbile for it, which, if unaddressed, could cause widespread starvation and hunger-related deaths in the country. What was required was massive and effective governmental intervention to ensure that the poorest Indians got food and other basic necessities of life in adequate quantities at highly subsidised rates.

Doing so was not populism, but discharge of moral and Constitutional duties by the government, he said.

''I would like to call it the equivalent of affirmative action in the economic sphere. The UPA government has totally failed in discharging this duty to the poor.'' The NDA would raise its powerful voice of protest against this unfolding crisis both within and outside Parliament. ''Today's human chain by NDA MPs testifies to our determination.''

UNI

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