To control the prices of food grains, essential commodities and other edibles, the Union government has asked state governments to allow free movement of fruits, vegetables and proposed to make black marketing a non-bailable offence in the country.
This was stated by the Union Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Raosaheb Patil Danve in Rajya Sabha on Friday.
Danve said that the government intends to amend the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 and the Prevention of Black marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980.
The amendments are proposed to make both Acts more stringent and to strengthen its enforcement. He said that the amendment proposed primarily relate to the following aspects:
The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 - 1. Offences to be made non-bailable, 2. Setting up of special courts, 3. Definition of 'Foodstuffs.
The Prevention of Blackmarketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980 - 1. Increase in the limit of detention period, 2. Increase in time limit for approval by State Government and 3. Reporting to the Central Government.
The minister said that these efforts will strengthen the deterrence against the offences. Regarding state governments role, he said that States have been empowered enough to deal with the cases of hoarding & black-marketing as they are the enforcing authorities.
The vigilance, monitoring and market intelligence to prevent hoarding is to be ensured by the State governments and Union Territories as enforcement authorities, he added.
Danve said that States have been advised to allow free movement of fruits and vegetables by delisting them from the APMC Act so that availability can be ensured from surplus markets to the areas where these are in short supply.
States have also been asked to take action against hoarding and black marketing and take stern action.
Briefing about the recent steps taken by the government to improve the availability and to contain prices of essential food items, the Minister said that in the union budget 2014-15, Rs.500 crore has been provided for establishing a Price Stabilization Fund with the objective of protecting the farmers from price volatility in agricultural produce.
The Minister said States have also been advised to impose stock limits in respect of onion and potato for a period of one year with effect from 3rd July, 2014 under the Essential Commodities Act.