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Essential commodities: Centre slams states failing to act on black marketers

The central government has come down heavily on the states for lack of prosecution under Prevention of Black Marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980.

According to officials, the centre has written to all states in response to the data sent by the states to centre which is a mandatory requirement under the said Act.

They said, almost all states have registered no cases of prosecution against black marketers. On the other hand, be it urea or sugar or other essential commodities, there are raids following which stocks of such commodities are confiscated.

While the number of such prosecution is minimal in other states,  the situation is alarming in the states of Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh where the states have reported action against hoarding but there are neither cases filed, nor there are detentions or prosecution done, although  there are some reports of arrests done.

Telangana and Tamil Nadu are among few states which have carried out serious prosecution against backmarkers.

The Prevention of Black-marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980 is being implemented by the state governments for the prevention of unethical trade practices like hoarding and black-marketing etc.

The Act empowers the Central and state governments to detain persons whose activities are found to be prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies of commodities essential to the community. 

Under this detentions are made by the states in selective cases to prevent hoarding and black-marketing of the essential commodities. Under the provisions of this Act, the state governments are required to report the facts together with the grounds of detention and other particulars relating to it, to the Central government within seven days of approval of the state government.

The Centre has also proposed amendment to Essential Commodities Act and Prevention of Black-marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act to check hoarding and black marketing of essential commodities. Officials added that response of the states are being sought tom expedite the amendments.

With government having no control over the prices of vegetables, fruits and other perishable commodities, the management of the essential commodities and its prices are under concurrent list  wherein the power to enforce and implement  related laws are entrusted upon the states only.

It was decided last year that vegetables and other perishable commodities, which are price-sensitive, will be removed from the ambit of the APMC Act and the state governments will have to take immediate action to tackle the issue by extending cooperation to the Centre.

Moreover the APMC Act was also amended which will allow farmers to sell their produce directly to retailers and consumers. This should lead to a fall in prices of these products.

There is also a proposal to establish a common national market for efficient supply chain management with scientific storage godowns, especially for onion and potatoes at strategic locations.

The states are required to mobilise existing storage capacity utilising the government, private and cooperative storage infrastructure to ensure that adequate stocks are maintained across cities and rural areas of the state.

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