The Minister for Food and Civil Supplies Anoop Jacob on Monday presented the statistics regarding the inflation rates in the state admitting that the prices of the essential commodities increased in the state in the last four years of UDF rule.
The Minister told the Assembly that the prices of the essential items like the staple grain rice, milk, eggs and vegetables in the state have flared up between 2011 and 2015. While the price of rice showed a 17 to 32 per cent increase, that of coconut oil saw a hike from 50 to 70.98 per cent. The price of milk has gone up to more than 50 per cent and vegetables prices have increased from 21.26 per cent to 88.96 per cent, says the official report which also cited a decline in the prices of commodities like turmeric and sugar. He pointed out that the price hike was mainly due to scarcity of essential items in the neighbouring states from where the items are being brought to Kerala, failure of crops, climate changes and transportation charges. Jacob said that the government has been taking all possible measures to tackle the price rise. The reasons cited by the Minister are justifiable as climate changes and natural calamities have contributed to crop loss. The transportation charges have also increased due to the frequent hike in diesel prices and goods transportation charges of the railways.
But the statistics released are not the sole causes for the unremitted inflation in the state. The reluctance of the government in intervening in the field of public distribution system is also equally significant. Since the ration is systematically available to the BPL and APL sections on a regular basis, the prices would automatically come down in the public markets. Currently, the public distribution system is derailed, fair price shops stand idle and civil supplies centres are being closed down consequently enabling the whole sale and retail traders to create artificial scarcity and to increase the prices unreasonably. There was also a steep rise of up to 65 per cent in the prices of food items in hotels with the hotel authorities only concerned about realising the new price rises. Despite the steps to counter price hikes, the government has not been able to take any effective steps so far.
The prices of rubber and coconut in the state have also declined significantly in the state putting the common man particularly the farmers into more severe crisis. The prices for coconut have come down from Rs 40 to Rs 17-19 per kilogram with each coconut priced at Rs 7. The amount received from the sale of coconuts would hardly be enough to pay for the workers whose wages are much higher. Therefore the government should reanalyze the future of Coconut Development Board and other related institutions as they are of little use. The government initiative of importing coconut, copra, coconut oil and other coconut products have in turn, adversely affected the farmers and thousands who relies on coconut for a living. The rules for importing rubber were relaxed mainly due to the pressure from the tyre manufacturing lobby as a result of which the price for rubber came down significantly. The future of coconut and rubber farming seems bleak just as rice farming with the common man bearing the brunt of the unremitted price rise of essential commodities. The government as well as the Opposition is responsible for safeguarding the interests of the people and ensure public welfare and therefore should take steps to check price hike instead of playing blame games and diverting public attention from the main stream issues.