Non-NDA oppn to stage protests against price rise

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New Delhi: Nine non-NDA Opposition parties, including the Left, on Thursday decided to organise week-long nationwide protests against government`s "failure" to contain the high prices of food and other essential items ahead of the Budget Session of Parliament.

"The policies of the government themselves are responsible for fuelling the price rise. There have been seven hikes in petrol prices since June, raising them by 20 per cent, including two in the past four weeks," CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat told reporters here.

Export and import of commodities like onions have fuelled price rise and was only helping the private trading companies, he said.

"We have been asking the government again and again to end forward trading in essential commodities, but to no avail.

Farmers are in distress, suicides are continuing in many parts and unseasonal rains in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and other areas have led to losses. But there has been no assistance to them from the government," he said.

Moreover, government was planning to introduce foreign investment in multi-brand retail which would go against the interests of lakhs of traders and shopkeepers, he said.

Karat said top leaders of the nine parties have decided to jointly carry out agitation from February 3-9 by picketing central government offices and holding sit-ins, demonstrations and rallies across the country, culminating in a mass dharna in Delhi on February nine.

During the protests, the parties would demand banning of forward trading in food and other essential items, universalisation of public distribution system, anti-hoarding actions, remunerative prices for farmers, ending deregulation of petro-products, rationalisation of tax structure on them and not allowing foreign capital in retail trade.

The meeting was attended among others by A B Bardhan (CPI), Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), Ajit Singh (RLD), N Nageshwara Rao (TDP), M Thambidurai (AIADMK), Arjun Charan Sethi (BJD), Debabrata Biswas (Forward Bloc) and Abani Roy (RSP).

Though former Prime Minister and JD(S) chief H D Deve Gowda did not attend as he was in Karnataka for a party meeting, he agreed that his party would join the protests, Karat said.

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