Contain impact of rising prices, Lok Sabha urges government

New Delhi, Aug 4 (IANS) The Lok Sabha Wednesday adopted a resolution urging the government to ‘take further action to contain the adverse impact of inflationary pressures on the common man’.

‘Hon’ble Members, this House, having considered the inflationary pressure on the economy of the country, urges upon the government to take further action to contain its adverse impact on the common man,’ said a resolution read out by Speaker Meira Kumar at the conclusion of the debate on the price rise, an issue that had stalled parliament all of last week.

Before the resolution was adopted, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj lamented that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had not announced any measures to contain the spiralling prices of essential commodities.

‘Not a single reform has been announced,’ Swaraj said. She said Mukherjee had introduced a new thesis that ‘the growth rate is increasing, so inflation is increasing’.

‘The government is not only insensitive, it is in a dilemma,’ said Swaraj, who had moved the resolution that the house adopted.

‘In fact, the growth rate belongs to somebody else and price rise is affecting somebody else. There is no co-relation between the growth rate and the price rise,’ Swaraj said, asserting that the common man has been heavily hit by the price rise.

Replying to the debate, Mukherjee said every step was and will be taken to tame prices, but the public at large must appreciate that certain factors like supply shortfall and hoarding were beyond the federal government’s control.

He said on issues such as prices both the federal and state governments must act together.

‘The powers are vested with states. Essential Services Maintenance Act is the states. But I do not intend to pass on the buck to them. It has to be done collectively by the union and state governments,’ he added, alluding to action required to prevent hoarding.

Touching upon the recent hikes allowed in prices of petroleum products, Mukherjee said in his 50-minute reply it was unavoidable due to perpetual increases in international crude oil prices, and added that reducing tax was not a solution.

‘You must understand, 34 percent of the revenues of the states governments come from petroleum products. I have to find alternative mechanisms. But I agree that petroleum prices must be rationalised,’ he said.

In this regard, he said, a uniform goods and services tax across the country — proposed to take effect from April 1 next year to replace the central excise duty and the various state levies — will help in augmenting resources and addressing inflation.

‘Constitution Amendment Bill must be introduced in this session for Goods and Services Tax. Otherwise it will get delayed further,’ he said, even as he sought to reason why stronger measures aimed just at bringing down prices were not taken.

‘Too much money chasing too few goods will automatically fuel inflationary expectations. But we have deliberately injected money into the system to ensure growth,’ he said, adding that it was also necessary to help exports and ensure remunerative prices for goods.

Referring to pulses and edible oils, the finance minister said it was unfortunate that the country was hit by the twin supply-side factors – shortfall in domestic output and lack of adequate availability in the international markets.

He hoped with a good kharif (summer crop) output, prices of pulses and edible oils would come down.

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