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Left to thwart any move to allow wheat import

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Apr 30 (UNI) The Left parties today cautioned the Centre against the move to allow wheat import by the private sector, saying any such step would affect the interests of both the consumers and the farmers.

Taking note of Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar's reported indication that the Centre might allow the user industry to directly import wheat, the Left leaders said if the government went ahead with the proposal, they would raise the issue in the extended Budget Session of Parliament, beginning on May 10.

In separate interviews to UNI, the leaders of the CPI, CPI(M) and Forward bloc also took strong exception to the Leader of the Opposition L K Advani's call for a CBI case against former external affairs minister K Natwar Singh and for questioning Congress chief Ms Sonia Gandhi in the Iraqi food-for-oil deals, contending that the issue could be discussed only after the Justice Pathak Authority gave its report.

The Centre is considering to allow the user industries to directly import wheat under the Open General License (OGL) scheme, Mr Sharad Pawar has said adding that, ''we are seriously considering allowing imports by actual users such as biscuit and bread manufacturers and flour millers under the OGL''.

CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan said, ''First of all, there is enough production of wheat within our country and all the requirements can be met to provide any logic for any import of wheat which will go against our farming community.'' It appeared that the Agriculture Minister had swallowed the WTO formula and wanted to enhance the quantum of wheat within the country which is not acceptable,'' they said.

CPI National Secretary Shamim Faizi said the ministry should see that the government agencies including the Food Corporation of India (FCI) procured all available wheat within the country on profitable prices.

''If wheat is imported under any garb - either the consumers requirement or any other excuse - it will badly harm the farming community. It will provide an opportunity for the local dealers and the brokers to buy wheat at a lower price than the government announced Minimum Support Price(MSP),'' Mr Faizi said.

The CPI leaders said if local producers were denied remunerative prices and a situation was created where wheat was imported on higher prices, it would result in escalating prices in the market.

''It clearly shows that the import of wheat required for users will actually hit both the farmers and consumers badly,'' they added.

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