Bengal government blames price hike on floods, centre

Kolkata, Oct 23 (IANS) As the prices of vegetables, fish and onions touch the roof, the West Bengal government Wednesday blamed the centre and the recent floods, and announced a meeting Oct 30 of the special task force for monitoring market rates.

While onions sold at Rs.80 per kg Wednesday, brinjal was Rs.60 to Rs.70 a kg; pointed gourd and lady's finger sold in the range of Rs.40 and Rs.60 per kg. Tomatoes were priced at Rs.50 a kg. Rohu fish was selling at Rs.250 a kilo.

With exorbitant prices hitting people hard, the state government refused to take blame for the spiralling prices of essential commodities.

"We are thinking about containing the prices, but our government is not responsible for the escalation of prices. Very recently, there were floods in the state because of cyclone Phailin, and discharge of water from reservoirs of the Damodar Valley Corporation in Jharkhand. The centre contributed to the rise in onion prices by allowing exports," said state Agriculture Marketing Minister Arup Roy.

The minister said the government was trying to bring down the prices to normal levels.

The 11-member special task force entrusted with conducting surprise checks and monitoring prices was maintaining a vigil and making the rounds of the markets.

An emergency meeting of the task force has been called here Oct 30.

"There is a shortage in onion supply. We are selling onions at subsidised rates", the minister said.

Roy said the sharp differences between the prices received by the farmers and the those selling at wholesale and retail markers needed to be reduced.

But the opposition was in no mood to let go of the opportunity to attack the government on the issue. "Seems to me 'dal me kuch kala hai' (something's fishy). The task force has either failed to take the required steps or has not deliberately taken the needed measures to control prices," Left Front chairman Biman Bose said.

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