Govt forced to return pulses seized during raids

Govt forced to return pulses seized during raids

Raids conducted before rules changed; HC ordered release of seized stock

Govt forced to return pulses seized during raids

 The Food and Civil Supplies Department had recently cracked down on hoarders in a big way with an intention to contain skyrocketing prices of pulses. But it has now surfaced that the entire exercise backfired as the department had failed to do a proper homework.

The department recently returned major portion of the stock of pulses, especially tur and tur dal, seized from mill owners and traders during September, October and November of last year on charges of stocking without licences. Of the total 2,55,458 quintals of seized pulses, 1,79,492 quintals were released back to the traders and the millers, according to documents accessed by this paper.

Reason: The department had conducted raids even before notifying the amendments brought to the Karnataka Essential Commodities Licensing Order, 1986, stipulating quantity of pulses the retail and the wholesale traders can stock. Interestingly, the notification was issued 39 days after the Government Order – the GO was issued on September 28, 2015 and the gazette notification was issued on November 6, 2015. A majority of the 1,351 raids conducted across the State was before the gazette notification.

As a result, the Karnataka High Court termed the raids conducted by the department (before the notification) as not valid and ordered that the commodity be returned to the aggrieved traders and millers, who had challenged the department’s action. The department was finally able to auction only about 3,760 quintals (pulses seized after the notification was issued).

The department raided dal mills, godowns and shops owned by the wholesale and retail traders and super markets across 30 districts following criticism from various quarters that the government was doing nothing to prevent price rise. Prices of pulses were shooting up alarmingly and hoarding was one of the reasons for it. For instance, price of tur dal, which is widely used in the State, had touched Rs 200 per kg.

Besides tur and tur dal, the department had seized urad, urad dal, gram, gram dal, moong, moong dal, avare, peas and horse gram. Of the 2,55,458 quintals, about 1,11,530 quintals were seized in Kalaburagi district alone. Kalaburagi is described as the tur bowl of Karnataka. The Food and Civil Supplies Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao had announced that the seized commodity worth over Rs 200 crore will be auctioned in public.
Sources in the government said, the department later realised that it has to amend the licensing order in order to book cases against the hoarders. And hence it issued the GO on September 28, stipulating the quantity of pulse traders and millers can stock. But delay in issuing gazette notification by the government proved very costly for the department, the sources said.

When contacted, Food and Civil Supplies department Additional Director (incharge) Sujatha D Hosmani said the department has released a portion of stock as per the court order. The rest was auctioned, she added.

What is more interesting is that the department has hardly conducted any raid against hoarding after the fiasco last year. The price of tur dal of good quality is still hovering around Rs 180 per kg.