People facing double whammy of pandemic, price rise: Congress

The Congress on Sunday accused the Narendra Modi government of letting stocks rot and artificially increasing the prices of vegetables and pulses. The Consumer Food Price Index has been consistently high for the past few months both in the urban and rural areas.

Congress spokesperson Gaurav Vallabh, at a press conference here in Delhi, said that coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, the inflation is denting the festive spirits. “As if the common man was not suffering enough through job losses, income uncertainty, the government has been ignorant and blatantly incompetent in controlling inflation,” Mr Vallabh said.

He alleged that the government, instead of exploring avenues to provide support to the people and boost consumption, is on a lookout to extract as much from them. The overall CFPI (Consumer Food Price Index) had been over 9% for July and August but has breached the 10% mark in September, he said.

Listing out the figures, Mr. Vallabh said the inflation rate for vegetables in September was 22.71%, while it 13.69% for pulses. “The current prices of potato are the highest in the last 130 months or close to 10 years,” he said. Currently, the retail price of potato ranges between ₹55-₹60. Mr. Vallabh said India exported 1.23 lakh potatoes despite a supply shortage.

“The government’s incompetence and inaction is evident from the fact that while we exported 1.23 lakh tonnes of potatoes to nations like Saudi Arabia, Oman, Myanmar and others in 2019-20, we ourselves have a supply shortage.”

“There are 30 lakh tonnes of potatoes lying in cold storages across Uttar Pradesh, out of which 22 lakh tonnes was meant for the markets. The government is now forcing the farmers to take out these stocks by 31st October, instead of 30th November. On the one hand the government has been crying out loud that farmers will now be able to sell their produce anywhere, anytime on the other hand forcing farmers to take potatoes out of cold storage and sell their produce,” Mr Vallabh said.

In the case of onion too, the government didn’t do anything to arrest the price rise. In January 2020, India imported 46,000 tonnes of onions to control the rates in our domestic market. Out of this, 32,000, or close to 70%, have been rotting in godowns and never reached the markets.

Mr. Vallabh said all these steps were deliberate attempts to help the big corporates. “We demand the government immediately act on blackmarketers, assess stock of essential items lying in cold storages and push sufficient stock in the markets to control the prices,” he added.

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