The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong slams food crisis
- Message: Worry about basic problems

New Delhi, Oct. 22: The Congress today expressed “serious concern” about the ration riots in Bengal and attacked the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government and the CPM for their handling of the situation.

“The food riots are a matter of serious concern. It is an anachronism to even talk of food riots in a country which is proud to flaunt a booming economy, which rightfully seeks its true place in the community of nations,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.

The apparent swipe, breaking a silence of over two months since the protests began, was at Bhattacharjee’s aspirations to industrialise Bengal and transform its economy.

“Those who profess concern for the poorest of the poor should immediately set their own house in order. They have to urgently address the legitimate concerns of the deprived and the needy,” Singhvi added.

As there were mood swings between sounding conciliatory and offensive towards the Left at the Centre, the Congress signalled loud and clear who its adversary in Bengal was in its critique today.

Without mentioning the nuclear deal and the other sticking points in the Left-Congress relations, the party suggested that the Left’s preoccupations were misplaced.

“All other slogans, shibboleths and controversies are secondary compared to the basic food needs of the people of West Bengal.”

The state government could neither “abdicate nor transfer its vital role and responsibility” in feeding the poor, Singhvi said, adding that the Congress and the UPA government were always ready to extend all “assistance”.

“The Congress’s concern is for that deprived segment…. We hope and trust that an immediate healing touch is provided by those entrusted with this task.”

Bhattacharjee, however, had blamed the Centre’s decision to slash the state’s quota of foodgrain for the crisis.

Rice allocated to the state for people above the poverty line was reduced to 7,700 tonnes a month from around 2.3 lakh tonnes. The quota of wheat was cut to half from around 1 lakh tonnes a month. The chief minister wrote to the Union agriculture minister that the cuts led to the crisis.

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