Rajya Sabha: Oppn questions govt on slashing import duty on wheat

RSTV Bureau
Members of Opposition parties protesting in Rajya Sabha. Photo - PTI

Members of Opposition parties protesting in Rajya Sabha.
Photo – PTI

Besides protest, disruptions and exchange over the issue of demonetisation, the Upper House of Parliament also witnessed an angry Opposition taking on the government on its move to slash the import duty on wheat to zero.

Terming the government decision as “anti-farmer”, the members of Opposition said it is aimed at benefitting the multinational firms.

Raising the issue on the floor of Rajya Sabha, Congress, BSP, SP, JD(U) and Left parties 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.

Seeking the house to discuss the issue, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury alleged that the decision will “ruin Indian farmers” while MNCs will rake in super-profits. Asserting that wheat prices in retail market were already rising because of demonetisation, he said the wheat is “being sold at Rs 700-800 per qunital as against MSP of Rs 1540 fixed by the government”.

“…the move to reduce import duty as shameful act and will lead to food riots,” Yechury said, adding “This is against the interest of the nation and its farmers. It is an anti-national act”.

File photo of Union Food minister Ramvilas Paswan. Photo - PTI

File photo of Union Food minister Ramvilas Paswan.
Photo – PTI

Seconding Yechury’s contention, BSP chief Mayawati 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.

Attacking the government, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh asked if the buffer stock is high, why were imports being allowed.

Earlier, Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan defended the move saying there was no shortage of wheat in the country and the decision was taken to cool down domestic prices which has shown an upward trend in recent weeks.

“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.

Intervening in the house, MoS Agriculture Parsottambhai Rupala too said that the decision on import duty will be reconsidered if farmers faced problems.

(With inputs from the PTI)