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I am happy with rising prices: Beni Prasad Verma

Barabanki(UP)/New Delhi, Aug.20 (PTI): Union minister Beni Prasad Verma sparked a controversy on Monday after commenting that he was “happy” over rising prices of food items as it will benefit farmers.

“Dal, atta, rice and vegetables have become expensive. The more the prices, the better it is for farmers. I am happy with this inflation,” the Union Steel Minister told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.

Verma, whose profession is listed as “agriculturist” on the Lok Sabha website, said the media was making a hue and cry of increasing prices. “Media kehti hai ki khane ki thali mehngi ho gayi hai...Isse fayada kisano ka hai, aur sarkar kisano ke fayda ki pachdhar hai” (Media says that cost of food plate has increased but it is benefiting farmers...and the government is in favour of farmers profit),” said Verma, 71.

The Bharatiya Janata Party promptly accused the Congress of turning a blind eye to the common man being hit by inflation.

“The Congress leaders are not affected by inflation at all. They are not seeing the plight of the people as a result of rising prices. It clearly shows their mentality,” BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain said in Delhi.

Today, the farmers are hit by high cost of fertilisers and power. “Then how are they going to benefit by rising prices? ” he said.

“The Congress talks about aam aadmi but it has drifted a long way away from them,” he said.

Attacking Verma, Samajwadi Party leader Mohan Singh said the minister is not fit to continue in the Government, which has got the full support of the Samajwadi Party.

“His remarks on price rise are highly irresponsible. It clearly shows that he is not in touch with ground realities. The farmers are not getting remunerative prices, be it for vegetables or other products,” Singh said.

Shivanand Tiwari of the Janata Dal (United) said instead of finding ways to effectively tackle inflation, corruption, poverty and unemployment, the senior minister was justifying rising prices.

Asked about Verma's remarks, Law Minister Salman Khurshid said it should be viewed in the right context.

“If the farmer gets a good price for his yield, then it is inevitable that market prices will also go up,” he said, adding that Prime Minister's economic advisers as also the Planning Commission are there to deal with such issues and keep a check on inflation.

If the recent steps taken by the Government including cut in interest rates are viewed holistically, then one will understand the context in which the minister made his remarks, Khurshid said.

Deprecating the Government, BJP's Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said doesn't it know that farmers, like everyone else, are also equally affected by overall rise in prices.

“The Government has become protector of mafias who manipulate prices. The aam aadmi is reeling under mounting inflation and this Government is happy about it,” he said.

Reacting sharply to Verma's remarks, BJP state president Lakshmi Kant Bajpai said Congress should issue a statement disowning them.

“It unfortunate that a Union minister is making such remarks. How can he be ignorant about the problems being faced by the common man due to price rise”, he said asking the Congress to clarify its stand on it.

SP spokesman Rajendra Chowdhury said that it was pathetic that a minister was making such a statement, which showed that he had no clue about the problems face by the common man.

SP leader Azam Khan said that Congress leader Sonia Gandhi should take note of Verma's remarks.