The Prime Ministers call, which signalled his near exasperation at the manner in which the issue was being projected, came as a follow-up of a meeting that he had with leaders of Left parties at his residence on Friday morning. The delegation led by CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat called on Singh with six suggestions of their own to bring down inflation. These include strengthening of PDS by universalising it and removing cuts made in supply of foodgrains to states under PDS. They have also sought cuts in customs and excise duties on oil and reduction in retail prices of petrol and diesel.
The Left as well as the Opposition NDA have been leading a protracted campaign against the government on the price rise front over the last few weeks. On Thursday, the NDA had formed a human chain, surrounding Parliament. They have also announced a general strike on May 2 protesting against rising prices.
The Prime Minister urged all political parties to eschew the temptation of politicising the misery of the people and warned against creating an environment of scarcity which would only encourage speculators and hoarders, a statement issued by the Prime Ministers Office (PMO) said.
The government has been contending time and again that the rising inflation is being driven by a difficult global situation and that it has been doing its best to control it. On Friday, the Prime Minister reiterated this argument to the Left leaders, pointing out that India was in fact, among the least impacted. Many other countries have even higher rates of inflation, he told the delegation. Singh said the government was confident of increasing procurement of foodgrains and had already raised the minimum support prices (MSP) to this end.
Observing that there were indications of improved food production this year which will further contribute to increased food procurement, the Prime Minister expressed confidence that a normal monsoon was also expected this year, which should further increase agricultural production. Singh also drew the delegations attention to the fact that agricultural production in India was rising in a robust manner in the 1980s and in early 1990s. It is only after 1996 that agriculture has been neglected, the PMO statement said.
He recalled that several steps had been taken by the government in the past four years to increase agro production, give security to farmers, improve their financial condition and increase investment in agricultural research and marketing.