Central govt gears up to check hoarding

Central govt gears up to check hoarding

Staring at an uncertain monsoon, the Narendra Modi government is gearing to deal with the problem of rising prices of essential commodities.

The Food and Consumer Affairs Ministry has asked state governments to approve the amendments to the Essential Commodities Act to allow stringent action against hoarders of essential items.

During the monsoon months last year, prices of potatoes, onions and tomatoes had peaked across several states leading to widespread protests. The Centre had blamed the price rise on hoarding by traders and drawn up an extensive action plan to crackdown on such elements.

However, since acting against hoarders is the domain of the state governments, the Centre could only exhort the former to take action. As a proactive step, the Centre proposed amendments to the Essential Commodities Act to make it more stringent by making offences such as hoarding non-bailable.

Besides, the proposed changes also provide for setting up special courts by state governments for quick trial of such cases. There was also a proposal to increase preventive detention under the Act from six months to one year.

On the issue of rising prices of pulses and edible oil, the Modi government admitted that reining them was a challenge. Food Minister Ramvilas Paswan said prices of wheat, rice and sugar were stable, but pulses and edible oil continued to be dearer.

According to official data, prices of pulses have increased by up to 64 per cent in the last one year. India produces 18-19 million tonnes of pulses annually and has to import 3-4 million tonnes, while it buys about 10-12 million tonnes of vegetable oils from overseas markets.

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