Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Assembly today witnessed heated exchanges as opposition UDF accused the LDF government of ‘failure’ to check the spurt in prices of essential commodities, especially that of rice.
Rejecting the opposition charges, The CPI(M)-led government maintained that effective steps had been taken to control price rise.
Attacking Food and Civil Supplies Minister P Thilothaman for the price rise, Congress-led UDF opposition said he had failed in tackling the situation and demanded his resignation.
UDF wanted the issue to be discussed as an adjournment motion in view of the ‘serious situation’.
But, after replies of the Food Minister and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan disallowed the motion, following which the UDF staged a walk-out.
Earlier, replying to the notice for the motion, Thilothaman admitted that there was an increase of 20-21 per cent in the prices of various rice varieties.
He attributed the drought situation prevailing in southern states and non-availability of rice from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh as the prime reason for it.
Shortage of about two lakh tons of rice in the state’s quota from the Centre for Public Distribution System had also contributed to price rise in open market, he said.
Rejecting the opposition charge of inaction, he said the government had allotted Rs 150 crore for the purpose of market intervention to supply rice and other essential commodities through outlets of state-run Civil Supplies Corporation.
A trade deal to bring 1,000 tons of rice from Andra Pradesh had been finalised, he said.
The Minister blamed a section of rice dealers in the state for ‘deliberately’ creating an artificial price rise and said “the government will deal with them firmly.” The ruling and opposition benches blamed each other for the cut in the central rice quota to the state under the PDS with the implementation of National Food Security Act.
LDF members blamed the previous UPA government at the Centre as responsible for the cut in rice quota and said the then UDF ministry in the state had failed to take any remedial measures to address this.
Seeking to turn the tables, the opposition members argued that it was the inefficiency of the present state government that had resulted in the rice crisis and asserted there was no shortage of rice till they vacated office in May last year.
Intervening, Vijayan said the state had already taken up the issue with the Centre.
An all-party delegation would be meeting the union ministers to exert pressure on the Centre to restore the state quota to 16.25 lakh tons from the present 14.25 lakh tons of food grains, he said.
“The state government has already requested the Centre to restore the rice quota at the subsidised rate,” he said adding both the ruling and opposition parties should go together and take up the issue with the Central ministers.