Beni Prasad Verma, Indian Minister for Steel remarked Monday that inflation was good for the country as it would benefit the farmers. His pithy observation has given the opposition parties more meat to attack the government.
Speaking to reporters at the sidelines of a political gathering near Lucknow, U.P., Verma said that he was happy with the rise in prices of food commodities, even as the government was taking steps to tackle inflation.
"Dal, wheat, rice, vegetables have become expensive. The farmer will gain profits from this and I am happy with the rise in prices," Verma said.
He said that media had created an unecessary hue and cry about inflation but it would eventually benefit the farmers, and the government favored the farmers, he added.
The controversial statement from the minister comes at a time when the government is struggling to cope with sky-high inflation in the country, igniting the opposition's ire.
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The opposition leaders pounced on the statement and accused the government of being a participant of the inflation mafia. Reacting to the minister's statement, Shahnawaz Hussain, a leader from the principle Opposition party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said that the minister's remark shows that government has "actually moved far away from the people."
"They (Congress leaders) are seeing the increasing inflation also an achievement, and they are saying that the farmers are benefitting from it. This tells us about the mindset of the Congress. Nothing can be worse than a Union Cabinet Minister's comment that farmers benefit because of inflation," said Hussain, ANI reported.
The ruling Congress party-led UPA coalition will face general elections next year and is under tremendous pressure from all corners to control the inflationary forces. Verma's statement spells trouble for the government in the parliament session.
The Congress, pushed to the wall by opposition parties over the issue, chose to play down Verma's comment. Defending Verma's statements, Union Law and Justice Minister Salman Khurshid said Monday that Verma was referring to the balancing of the system that will benefit both the farmers and consumers. "If you try to think (Beni Prasad Verma's views) in some words, then you will get it wrong. So try to understand the whole system and don't take it out of context. We are fulfilling our responsibilities. It is the same with regard to the consumer as well as the farmers," he said, according to the Mumbai Mirror.
The spiraling inflation, especially of the food items and fuel has adversely affected the Indian economy, restricting the government and the Reserve Bank of India from taking any monetary measures to boost economic growth, which has hit the lowest levels in nine years.
The government is also under flak from the common people who are the worst affected by inflation.
The country's headline inflation had slowed down to 6.87 percent in July from 7.25 percent in June. However, the poor monsoon is expected to affect agricultural production and push inflation further this year.