Opposition walks out in Assembly over price rise issue

Thiruvananthapuram: The Congress-led UDF Monday staged a walk out in the Kerala Assembly after its notice for an adjournment motion against the government on "exorbitant" rise in prices of essential commodities was rejected.

Raising the issue, the UDF members alleged "ineffective" market  intervention by the CPI(M)-led LDF government had resulted in the present situation.

The price increase has come as a "double blow" for the people whose purchasing power had been dented by devastating floods in August last year and the Ockhi cyclone in December, 2017, they said.

However, the LDF government rejected the opposition claims and said it had been taking effective market intervention steps in the past three years to regulate the prices.

The House witnessed heated exchange of words between the opposition members and Food and Civil Supplies Minister P Thilothaman and Agriculture Minister V S Sunil Kumar over the issue.

Thilothaman said crores of rupees had been set aside by the Left government for the market intervention in the last three years. Essential commodities, including rice and pulses, were being sold at lower prices.

"Even though the situation was adverse after the  floods, the effective market intervention by the government, through the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation, has helped in regulating the price hike and strengthening the public distribution system in the state," he said.

He admitted the prices of vegetables had showed a "slight" upward trend and attributed it to crop loss due to climate changes in neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, from where Kerala procures its lion's share of the requirements.

Yet, vegetables were being sold at 30 per cent below the market rate through state-run outlets, the minister said.

M Vincent of Congress, who gave notice for the adjournment motion, claimed not only vegetables and provisions but the cost of building materials, cattle feed and food in hotels were also 'soaring'.

"People are struggling to come out of the hardships caused by floods and Ockhi. They cannot afford even a minor hike in prices of essential commodities at this time," he added.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala (Congress) said there was an average 10 per cent hike in the price of various essential commodities compared to previous year.

 As Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan rejected the notice for the motion, the opposition members staged a walkout.

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