commodities, opposition calls it poll gimmick (With additional inputs and pol reax) Kolkata, Nov 9 (PTI) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to urgently intervene to control hoarding or restore the states' power to control prices of essential food items like potato and onion, drawing sharp criticism from the opposition parties which termed it as a 'poll gimmick' to divert attention from her failures.
Banerjee, a vocal critic of the BJP-led government at the Centre, in her letter urged the prime minister to increase supplies to bring down the prices of essential commodities or restore the power of the states to control prices, which was 'usurped' following the amendments in The Essential Commodities Act.
'In view of the seriousness of the matter, I would urge the Central Government to urgently step in to control hoarding, to increase supply and to bring down the rising prices of essential commodities, as the public is facing an acute crisis. Otherwise, the power of the state governments be restored for exercising control over the production, supply, distribution and sale of agricultural commodities,' she wrote in her four-page missive to the prime minister.
Banerjee also urged Modi to permit the states 'to bring about an appropriate legislation in this regard'.
Referring to the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act 2020, the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020, the letter said 'We (state governments) had raised our serious concerns that these enactments were hurriedly made without adequate thought process or discussion and consultation with the states.
'The adverse impact of these new Central Acts upon the farmers and consumers in terms of availability and prices of essential agricultural commodities is already visible now, as these Acts are against the interests of farmers and consumers,' Banerjee wrote.
The Trinamool Congress supremo also mentioned that the amendments in the Essential Commodities Act had removed the cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onions and potatoes from the list of essential commodities. These were 'seriously encouraging hoarders in hoarding' thereby resulting in price rise and consequent sufferings to the consumers and the common people.
'Moreover, the amendments, have effectively usurped the powers of the state government in facilitating the supply-chain disruptions putting common people to a huge discomfort. Only the central government has the power to regulate these agri-products,' she wrote.
Banerjee said it is unfortunate that without proper planning and developing mechanisms to control hoarding and profiteering the power of the state has been 'bulldozed'.
'Keeping in view the gravity of the situation, I would seek your kind and urgent intervention, as the state governments being now devoid of its powers cannot be expected to remain a silent spectator to the ongoing sufferings of the common people due to extraordinary price rise of potato and onion-like essential commodities,' she wrote.
Meanwhile, the state Enforcement Branch and Special Task Force visited various markets of the state and took stock of the situation.
The letter, however, snowballed into a political slugfest between the TMC and the opposition CPI(M) and the BJP, which termed it as a 'poll gimmick' by Banerjee to divert attention from the failures of her government.
'Blaming the Centre for everything has turned into a habit of Mamata Banerjee and the TMC. The state has the rights to control the prices, but a section of TMC leaders are busy earning 'cut money' from the hoarders and profiteers for their election fund. This is nothing but a poll gimmick to divert attention from the failures of the state government,' BJP state general secretary Sayantan Basu said.
Echoing him, CPI(M) legislative party leader Sujan Chakraborty wondered why the state government is not bringing in a law to control the prices.
'Not just potato and onion, prices of vegetables are also soaring every day. What is the state government doing to bring down those prices? The answer is nothing. If the state government is so concerned about price rise then it should bring in a law to control the price. What is stopping them from doing that ?' Chakraborty questioned.
The TMC, however, said it is doing everything at its disposal to check the prices.
'The TMC government is doing its best to check the prices of essentials. The BJP and CPI(M) are only busy politicising the issue. The powers of the state are limited after the new law was passed,' TMC MP Sougato Roy said.
The Parliament had on September 23 passed the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill to remove cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes from the list of essential commodities. PTI SCH PNT KK KK KK