New Delhi, Jun 15: With the central government coming under attack over rising pulse prices, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan today sought to shift some blame to the states, saying they are equally responsible for keeping the rates of essential commodities under control.
Despite several measures, pulses are still ruling high at over Rs 170 per kg in most parts of the country due to a widening demand-supply gap following two successive droughts.
Paswan, who launched sale of tur and urad at a subsidised Rs 120 per kg through mobile vans of co-operative NCCF in the national capital today, said: "If prices rise despite this move, the Centre is not responsible.
In a federal structure, states have equal responsibility in controlling prices." Passage of the GST Bill and creation of the national common agriculture market would address the price rise issue to a large extent, he hoped.
The National Cooperative Consumers' Federation of India (NCCF) is the third player after Mother Dairy's Safal and Kendriya Bhandar that will be selling tur and urad at the subsidised rate in the national capital. Asserting that the Centre is "serious" about the price rise issue, Paswan said, "We have created a buffer stock and have asked states to place their requirement for retail distribution.
However, not many states have shown interest." The Centre is offering to state governments the un-milled tur and urad from the buffer stock at Rs 66 per kg for retail distribution at not more than Rs 120 in order to provide relief to consumers.
So far, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Maharashtra have lifted some quantity of pulses from the buffer stock. Rajasthan had placed its demand, but has not yet lifted the commodity.
Paswan maintained that it is "wrong to blame" the central government for price rise when states have powers to take effective action against hoarders and blackmarketeers by imposing stock limits on traders. "We can only give direction to states to take action against hoarders.
We cannot do it ourselves because power rests with the states and they have to do (it)," he said. He further said that the states have been asked to create their own buffer stock of pulses and even undertake imports if there is such a crisis.
The challenge of demand-supply gap of about 7.6 million tonnes is being addressed via public and private imports and local procurement for buffer stock creation of 1.5 lakh tonnes this year.
Even bilateral talks are going on with Myanmar and other African nations for government-to-government import of pulses to boost domestic supply during the lean June-September, he said.
The minister also said,"The price rise will be there till there is a problem of demand-supply gap. We hope good production this year with a substantial hike in the support price of pulses and forecast of good monsoon."
Pulses production is estimated to be 17.06 million tonnes in 2015-16 crop year (July-June), slightly lower than 17.15 million tonnes in previous year. But the output is lower than the overall demand of 23.5 million tonnes.