Thiruvananthapuram: Even as the Congress-led government in Kerala tries hard to bring down skyrocketing prices of rice, Left parties have decided to take on the government over the issue. Rice is considered the staple food in the southern state but in the last four years, prices of the grain have more than doubled -- from Rs 19.70 to Rs 48 per kg. Prices of common rice varieties have gone up by Rs 5 to Rs 10 per kg in the last three weeks.
The opposition Left Democratic Front, at a meeting on Tuesday, decided to hold a sit-in in front of the state secretariat on Dec 31 against the rising rice prices. All top leaders of the Left, including legislators and members of parliament, would take part in the sit-in against the government's alleged inability to make market interventions and check the rising prices, a leader said.
Kerala buys rice from neighbouring states since the area under paddy cultivation in the state fell from 3,11,000 hectares in 2002-03 to 2,13,000 hectares in 2010-11. As a result, production too dropped from 689,000 tonnes to 522,000 tonnes during the same period.
The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) held a meeting Monday evening over the issue as tempers ran high among the allies. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy then Tuesday morning held a meeting with some cabinet ministers, asking them to intensify raids and take tough action against hoarders and unscrupulous traders.
But traders attribute the rising prices to a reduced supply of rice from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. "Raids appear to have yielded results. But another problem is shortage of railway wagons to bring supplies from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh," state Food Minister Anoop Jacob told reporters in the Kerala assembly.
Chandy has asked the state police to ensure that more raids are conducted so that rice prices can be brought down before Christmas. The government has also decided to open special trade fairs for the Christmas rush.