Centre squarely to blame for price rise, say states

Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar's attempt to at least partly blame state governments for the spurt in food prices may have backfired. There has been a sharp backlash from state governments, particularly those ruled by non-UPA parties.

At a national meeting of the Nationalist Congress Party in New Delhi on Sunday, party supremo Pawar had said that apart from the poor monsoon, the price rise was also because the states were not doing enough to control it.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was the first to react, blaming the UPA government's ''faulty policies'' rather than inactivity by the states for the crisis.

''I don't subscribe to Pawar's charge about the inability of states to control skyrocketing prices of essential commodities. Whenever Congress has come to power at the centre, it gifted the nation with uncontrolled price rise,'' Kumar told newspersons in Patna on Sunday itself.

Yesterday, Kerala's minister for food and civil supplies C Divakaran said, "Pawar made a political statement at a political forum. He should meet state food ministers to discuss the burning issues. Even now, the state government is procuring 11 essential commodities including sugar and giving it at subsided rates. We get rice at Rs17 a kilo and sell it at Rs13. We get rice for BPL families at Rs6.20 and sell it at Rs2. What has he done to help us?"

In Kolkata, West Bengal food and supplies minister P C Adhikari said the only way to check prices was to do away with a few central policies, one of which is speculative trading in commodities. This could only be done by the centre, and without this it would be impossible to manage inflation, he said.