Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday claimed that new farm laws enacted by the Centre led to black marketing of potatoes and onions, causing their prices to rise sharply.
“The central government has made destructive farm laws leading to black marketing of essential food items like potato and onion,” the chief minister said at an administrative meeting in Bankura district.
Banerjee said that in a letter she told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the Centre should either ensure that there is no black marketing of these items or provide states the necessary power to tackle the problem.
“Earlier we used to keep a check on prices of these essential food items but now the central Acts have robbed the states of their powers. This has caused losses to farmers as well as consumers. We also could not control the prices,” Banerjee said.
The chief minister said the state government should not be blamed for the high prices of items such as potatoes and onions. They were earlier in the list of essential commodities, but in September, the Centre enacted the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, which removed cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oil, onions and potatoes from the list. “The Centre has made such an act that it [pricing] has gone into the hands of black marketeers,” Banerjee said, accusing the Union government of looting farmers.
She pointed out that her government was still selling potatoes at Rs 25 per kg from its “Sufal Bangla” outlets, using the stock it had procured earlier. Banerjee said her government does not know how long it can keep selling potatoes at subsidised rates as the stock will end soon, and under the new law the state cannot replenish it.
She reiterated her criticism of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to an Adivasi family in the district’s Chaturdihi village for lunch earlier this month.
She also said the West Bengal government has not stopped its social welfare schemes and has paid salaries and pension regularly despite tight fiscal condition due to very little financial help from the Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state has spent Rs 4500 crore for coronavirus treatment facilities from it’s own coffers despite the tight financial situation, she said at an administrative review meeting here.
She said that work for a Rs 2,500 crore World Bank project to improve irrigation facilities and flood protection measures in the Lower Damodar Basin benefitting the people of five districts will start from January.
(With PTI inputs)
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