NEW DELHI: As part of maintaining smooth supply of essential items in the country, the home ministry has asked states to take urgent steps to ensure availability of essential goods during the lockdown and prevent their hoarding or black marketing by invoking provisions of the Essential Commodities (EC) Act, 1955.
The measures to be taken, as elaborated by home secretary Ajay Bhalla in a letter sent to chief secretaries on Tuesday, include fixing of stock limits, capping of prices, enhancing production, inspection of accounts of dealers and other such actions.
The home secretary’s letter followed a review of status of essential commodities by home minister Amit Shah, where he directed officials to ensure, with the cooperation of state governments, that there was no hoarding or black-marketing of these items. He also called for swift and strict action against hoarders.
Through orders issued earlier under the Disaster Management Act, the home ministry had allowed manufacture/production of essential goods like foodstuff, medicines and medical equipment. “However, there are reports of loss of production due to various factors, especially reduction in labour supply… In this situation, there is a possibility of inventory building/hoarding and black marketing, profiteering and speculative trading, and the resulting in price rise of essential goods cannot be ruled out,” the home secretary said in his letter to the chief secretaries.
Calling upon states to take urgent steps urgent to ensure availability of essential goods at fair prices, he advised them to invoke provisions of the Essential Commodities Act where required.
Offences under EC Act are criminal offences and may result in imprisonment of seven years or fine or both. “State/Union territory governments may also consider detention of offenders under the Prevention of Black-marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980,” Bhalla told the chief secretaries.
Meanwhile, the consumer affairs ministry is authorising states/Union Territories to notify orders under the EC Act, 1955, by relaxing the requirement of prior concurrence of the central government up to June 30, 2020.