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CMs demand more powers to deal with hoarders, ordinance on the cards

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, July 5 (UNI) Stung by the growing criticism of the Centre on the price rise issue, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today directed Chief Ministers of Party-ruled states to take stringent measures against hoarders and profiteers to curb rising prices to avoid further hardship to the "aam aadmi." On their part, the Chief Ministers, pledged to complement the ongoing efforts of the Centre to rein in the prices of essential commodities. But they unanimously sought to put the blame for the present situation on the "trader-friendly" measures of the A B Vajpayee government, even while seeking more powers to intervene in cases of hoarding of essential commodities.

While citing the difficulties in this regard being experienced due to the February 15, 2002 order issued by the BJP-led NDA government rescinding all Control Orders under the Essential Commodities Act, they sought reconsideration of the previous government's decision.

The Chief Ministers requested that forward trading in foodgrains and some other essential commodities should be better regulated in order to curb excessive speculation.

There are indications at the AICC that an ordinance would be promulgated within a few days nullifying the 2002 order of the Vajpayee government which, the meeting felt, was responsible for the present inflationary trend.

In a clear move to put the Opposition BJP on the defensive, the meeting sought to blame the "trader-friendly" measures of the NDA government as responsible for the recent increase in prices of essential commodities like wheat, pulses, sugar and vegetables.

However, they resolved to monitor the price situation closely and take such further steps as might be found necessary.

Out of the 14 Congress Chief Ministers, Capt Amarinder Singh (Punjab) and Mr Tarun Gogoi (Assam) did not participate in the meeting on health grounds. Meghalaya Chief Minister J D Rymbai was also absent in the meeting as the assembly was in session.

Briefing mediapersons on the deliberations, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Ms Gandhi advised the Chief Minsiters to continue to take mesures to strengthen the Public Distribution (PDS) and ensure that the PDS functions effectively and provides essential commodities to the common people at reasonable prices.

Dr Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister P Chidamabaram, Mr Pranab Mukherjee and AICC General Secretaries and CWC members in charge of states, Ms Gandhi's Political Secretary Ahmed Patel and AICC treasurer Motilal Vora attended the meeting at Ms Gandhi's official 10, Janpath residence.

The meeting began with opening remarks by Ms Gandhi, setting the trend for the discussion. Dr Singh and Mr Chidambaram explained the steps that the Centre had initiated so far to check price rise.

The Prime Minister assured them that his government would look into the issues raised by the Chief Ministers, AICC General Secretary Janardhan Dwivedi said.

Asked if the exercise initiated by Ms Gandhi against price rise meant isolation of Prime Minister Singh, Mr Mukherjee asked :" "Where is the question of isolation? Dr Singh is the Prime Minister.

A Prime Minister is a Prime Minister." "Ms Gandhi will have to respond to the situation," he said, recalling the CWC meeting, the meeting of Party General Secretaries and the meeting of Chief Ministers of Party-ruled states.

"It is not the question of being satisfied or dissatisfied," Mr Mukherjee said, in reply to a question if Ms Gandhi was satisfied with the measures taken by the Centre and party ruled states against price rise which has brought in embarrassment to the government, especially in the context of supporting Left parties gearing up to go to the streets on the issue.

On the 2002 order of the NDA government, he said the states could not take immediate action as they have to seek prior permission of the Centre under the order on the Essential Commodities Act.

Clearly, the emergency meeting... picking up para one, line one of DI 33 "Politics-Second Lead Congress-CMs Meet two Last New Delhi." UNI SH RP BD2022

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