No whittling down of my portfolios: Sharad Pawar

Written by Swaraj Thapa | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 30 2010, 03:52am hrs
Asserting that work allocation is the sole prerogative of the Prime Minister, NCP leader and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on Thursday rejected the reported suggestion from Congress quarters that he should be divested of some of his workload. Pawar also holds charge of food & civil supplies and consumer affairs & public distribution. I have had the same portfolio with me for six years now. Nobody has told me anything so far, said Pawar.

Pawar was reacting to media reports about the demand for bifurcating the charges under him on the ground that it entailed conflict of interest of producers and consumers. The demand had apparently gained ground in the backdrop of rising criticism of the minister over escalating food prices. In recent days the criticism has come not just from the Opposition but also from parties in the UPA, including the Congress.

Pawar maintained that prices have been stable in the last five years. It is only in the last one year that there has been some rise. That too, because of factors beyond our control, he said.

He outlined the ambit of the decision-making process. Decision making is not so simple and decisions are never taken by an individual. Fixing of prices is done by the CACP, whose recommendations are forwarded to the ministry concerned. If it is supported by the ministry, the final decision is taken by the Cabinet, Pawar said. He, however, refused to join issue with the Congress, saying that he did not feel anyone was targeting him specifically.

The latest inflation data released on Thursday showing a slight mark-up relies on fortnight old figures, said Pawar. Prices of pulses are going down. So are sugar prices. A lot of wheat and rice is being pumped into the market. Lifting of grains has been good now. So I expect prices to go down, he said.

He said 90% of PDS wheat and rice had been lifted so far. Even in states like Bihar and Bengal, the situation had been promising. In West Bengal, 88% rice and 100% wheat has been lifted. For Bihar, the figures are a bit lower, with 63% rice and 61.4% wheat being lifted, he said.

A meeting of chief ministers convened by the Prime Minister on February 6 is scheduled to discuss the price rise issue.