New Delhi: In a virtual snub to food and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, the Congress on Friday asked the government to take immediate steps to control prices of essential commodities.

Soaring inflation: Food and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar. The Congress says the Union government needs to take immediate short- and long-term measures to provide relief to the common man. Pankaj Nangia / Bloomberg

All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters that urgent short- and long-term measures to provide relief to the common man were needed.

“There should be two types of policies—steps which are required to immediately check prices and steps to be taken to ensure that production of pulses and sugar increases," Dwivedi said a day after food price inflation crossed 15%.

His remarks came close on the heels of Pawar putting the onus on the states for bringing down prices by asking them to crack down on black marketers and hoarders, noting in Parliament that hardly any action has been taken on this.

On why the Congress needed to remind the government once again as it had held a working committee meeting in August on prices, Dwivedi said: “It’s not a problem which could be solved in two days. The party has to remind the government particularly when there is a coalition government. We are a major party in it but we are only first among equals. It is not a Congress government."

The party wants the government to take all necessary measures to check prices, he said.

As long as work is not initiated urgently to increase the production of pulses, prices cannot be controlled permanently, he said.

Besides, the AICC general secretary felt that farmers needed to be motivated to achieve higher production, especially of pulses, as “dal-roti is our staple diet".

Dwivedi also said states need to do more for better monitoring of the public distribution system and take strict action against hoarders and black marketers.

He gave credit to the Union government for ensuring that India is one of the countries least affected by the global economic slowdown.

Asserting that Congress was concerned over the price rise as it was very much with the people, he recalled that the Congress Working Committee had passed a resolution in its meeting in August asking the government to “keep the strictest vigil on the prices of essential commodities".

The Lok Sabha had on Thursday witnessed a sharp attack on the government from the opposition parties over prices.