New Delhi, Apr 25: A high level delegation of the Left parties led by Prakash Karat and A B Bardhan today met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and suggested six measures to curb abnormal price rise and soaring inflation but got no concrete assurance barring considering restoration of quota of foodgrains to the states under the Public Distribution System (PDS).
During the 45 mintutes meeting, the left leaders impressed upon the Prime Minister that the first priority of his government should at the moment be to contain rising prices of essential commodities which had gone through the roof for the commonman and largely the lower and middle classes.
CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan told the sources that Dr Singh had promised to look into the Left demands for restoring the cut in foodgrain allocation under the PDS and include 15 essential commodities including pulses, edible oil and sugar in the PDS.
Mr Karat told the Prime Minister that the people could not be left starving and the government had to supply the foodgrains at affordable prices to which Dr Singh is said to have referred to the financial difficulty, ''But this is the prime duty of the government to provide foodgrains to every citizen. Everything else comes later.'' Mr Bardhan said the Left leaders placed before the Prime Minister the other oft repeated demands including putting a ban on the future trading in 25 agricultural commodities as proposed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution.
The other demands include putting curbs on procurement of foodgrains from farmers by private comapanies and traders, cutting customs and excise duties on oil and reducing retail prices of petrol and diesel, and taking stringent action against holding of essential commodities, strengthening the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act to empower state governments to deal with hoarding and black marketing.
The present requirement of declaration of stocks of foodgrains of 50,000 tonnes and above held in godowns and warehouses should be lowered to 10,000 tonnes, the Left leader demanded.
RSP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Abani Roy said they had told the Prime Minister that if the government conceded the Left demands, a little bit of relief on price rise front would definitely go to the people. ''The Prime Minister assured that he would go through the demands but gained no concrete assurance. We have also told him that the government is giving tax concession to the corporate houses while the people in general are facing great difficulty because of record price rise and rising inflation,'' he added.
The other Left leaders were CPI(M) Polit Buro member Sitaram Yechuri, CPI National Secretary D Raja, and Forward Bloc General Secretary and MP Devbrata Biswas.