A day after Rahul Gandhi derided Prime Minister as "Arhar Modi", Congress on Friday stepped up attack on the government on the issue alleging that the pulses "crisis" is a "man made scam" of Rs 2.5 lakh crore in which common man was "robbed" of by profiteers, hoarders and black marketers.

Party's chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala demanded that the Prime Minister must answer and take "decisive action" against those who "fleeced" the ordinary citizen in the last 15 months.

"People of India have paid 150 per cent to 200 per cent extra for pulses alone during 15 months of Modi government ie, April, 2015 to July, 2016. This comes to over Rs 2,50,000 crore for this period. It is a man made crisis of great magnitude and proportion under the very nose of Modi government ...Covert and overt support of the Modi government," Surjewala said.

"This day light robbery is clearly discernible when one compares the MSP/import price of pulses (even after adding Rs 5 per kg of Processing Fee + Rs 10 per kg of Transportation Charges + Rs 5 per kg of Profit) as against the actual sale price to ordinary consumer", Surjewala said.

Noting that the MSP of pulses as also imported pulses was in the range of Rs 40 to Rs 50, he said that this clearly showed that price of domestically produced pulses or imported pulses for the common man cannot be more than Rs 60/65 per kg by any stretch of imagination even after adding 'processing fee', transportation charges' as also 'profit margin'.

"As against this, price of pulses has been ranging between Rs 130 to Rs 200 per kg since April, 2015 till today i.e, July, 2016. Hence, it is clear that the average price of pulses has been in the range of Rs 150 per kg in the last 15 months.

Thus, profiteering of Rs 85/90 per kg (Rs 150 per kg of average price minus Rs 60/65 per kg of final sale price) is writ large.", he alleged.

He said when multiplied by 23 million tonne (2.30 crore tonne) of annual consumption of pulses, this figure comes to Rs 2,50,000 crore for a 15 months period between April, 2015 to July, 2016.

He alleged that "long windows" of 'no stock limit' in big states of Gujarat and Maharashtra ruled by the BJP were used by hoarders and black marketeers to push the prices of pulses at an insurmountable high of Rs 150 to Rs 200 per kg.

Elaborating the "long windows", he said restriction on stock limits on pulses were lifted by Gujarat government on 30.09.2013, then headed by Narendra Modi as Chief Minister. On 27.09.2013, UPA government decided to extend the validity of restriction on stocking of pulses, edible oils and edible oil seeds for a further one year i.e, 30.09.2013 to 30.09.2014.

"Gujarat government headed by Modi, however, refused to extend the order beyond 30.09.2013 despite a specific recommendation by Director, Food & Civil Supplies, Gandhinagar. This is apparent from the copy of documents available under RTI.", he said.

Similarly, BJP Government of Maharashtra issued an order dated 23.04.2015 removing all stock limits on storage of pulses, thereby discontinuing Congress government's imposed ban of seven years, Surjewala alleged.

"Even this was done in a surreptitious manner in as much as the original note dated 11.02.2015 of Secretary, Food & Civil Supplies, Government of Maharashtra was qua lifting of stock limit ban only on edible oils and edible oil seeds. In a surreptitious manner, word 'pulses' was added on 14.02.2015, which was finally approved by Shri Devendra Fadnavis, CM on 18.03.2015", he claimed.

Alleging that an organized syndicate of hoarders/importers/select corporates is artificially enhancing the prices, he wanted an independent investigation into the whole issue.

He said that an organised cartel of hoarders and importers runs across India with tentacles spreading from Myanmar to African continent.

"Modus operandi is simple - importers take delivery of pulses stocks and hoard it at foreign ports; Ships from Myanmar carrying tonnes of pulses are halted at port in Singapore; Ships coming from African continent are made to slow down for days together. Aim is to create artificial scarcity in India. Similarly, hoarders stock pulses procured in godowns in different States where there is no stock limit, including sometimes at private ports. This racket continues to thrive," he said.

Surjewala claimed that a big Gujarat traders syndicate called 'ETGWORLD' headed by one Jayesh Patel has been importing 'Arhar (Tur) Dal' from Mozambique at Rs 55 per kg in the year 2015 and is now selling the same at Rs 175 per kg. Adani Wilmar has been using 'ETGWORLD' to source 'Dal' internationally.

He said it needs to be investigated as to how much quantities of pulses were purchased Nationally and Internationally by Adani Wilmar since formation of joint venture in 2014, including final sale prices of stocks so acquired (which are stated to be in the range of Rs 180 to Rs 200 per kg).

Besides, he said that in October, 2015; as prices of 'Dal' rose up to Rs 200 per kg, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) inked a pact with 'Indian Pulses and Grain Association' (IPGA) to handle import of pulses across its ports.

He claimed that this has been duly noted by Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), but no action has been taken.

Taking a dig at Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who had spoken on the issue yesterday, Surjewala said that the Finance Minister does not know in which season pulses are grown.

Asked whether the party would press for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the issue, he said it was a matter to be decided by the Parliamentary party.

Source: Business Standard