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Parliament: Opposition terms zero import duty on wheat as anti-farmer, anti-national

Congress, BSP, SP, JD-U And Left Members Alleged That The Move To Slash Import Duty On Wheat From 10 Per Cent To Zero At A Time When The Country Has Enough Buffer Stock Will Hit The Farmer Hard.

PTI | Updated on: 09 Dec 2016, 01:31:47 PM
BSP leader Mayawati and CPIM Leader Sitaram Yechury raising the wheat import duty issue in Rajya Sabha on Friday (Screengrab)

New Delhi:

Angry Opposition protests over government’s move to slash import duty on wheat to zero allegedly to benefit multinational firms forced adjournment of the proceedings of Rajya Sabha till Friday afternoon.

Congress, BSP, SP, JD-U and Left members alleged that the move to slash import duty on wheat from 10 per cent to zero at a time when the country has enough buffer stock will hit the farmer hard. The move ahead of the winter wheat crop will help MNCs to dump cheap wheat from US, France and Ukraine in the country, they said.

Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said there was no shortage of wheat in the country and the decision was taken to cool down domestic prices which have shown an upward trend in recent weeks.

(Read full coverage of Day 18 of Parliament's Winter Session)

“Last few days, wheat prices are on the rise,” he said, adding “this is not a permanent decision”, indicating it can be reviewed if need arises.

Minister of State for Agriculture Parsottambhai Rupala said the decision was necessitated as domestic prices were rising. The government uses market intervention to keep prices in check, he said, adding that the decision on import duty will be reconsidered if farmers faced problems.

Raising the issue, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said he had given a notice under rule 267 to suspend business of the day to discuss the decision that will “ruin Indian farmers” while MNCs will rake in super-profits.

Asserting that wheat prices in retail market were rising because of demonetisation, he said the farmers are already hit hard by demonetisation as they are unable to buy seeds and fertiliser due to cash shortage.

“He has to make distress sale,” he said adding wheat is being sold at Rs 700-800 per qunital as against MSP of Rs 1540 fixed by the government.

Describing the move to reduce import duty as “shameful act”, he said it will lead to food riots and added he condemns the decision. “This is against the interest of the nation and its farmes. It is an anti-national act,” he said.

Bhupinder Yadav (BJP) said another 267 notice cannot be taken up if debate has resumed and remained inconclusive on another notice accepted under the same rule. Deputy Chairman P J Kurien agreed with Yadav and said he is not allowing Yechury’s motion.

BSP chief Mayawati (BSP) said the decision will benefit the rich and was against the farmers, while Sharad Yadav (JD-U) said wheat prices have fallen in the world. He also questioned the need to allow imports when there were enough stocks available within the country.

Jairam Ramesh (Cong) said if the buffer stock is high, why were imports being allowed. 

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First Published : 09 Dec 2016, 01:24:00 PM