Ensure availability of essential goods: Home ministry to states

New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has directed all the states to ensure the availability of essential goods during the 21-day national lockdown period by fixing stock limits and capping of prices.

Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla has written to all the state Chief Secretaries to take urgent steps to ensure availability of the essential goods by invoking provisions of the Essential Commodities (EC) Act 1955.
Bhalla’s instruction aims to maintain “smooth supply of essential items” in the country amid the novel coronavirus pandemic that has claimed 149 deaths and over 4,500 confirmed cases across the country.
“These measures include fixing of stock limits, capping of prices, enhancing production, inspection of accounts of dealers and other such actions,” Bhalla directed the states.
Noting reports of loss of production due to various factors, especially reduction in labour supply, the Home Secretary directed the states as there was possibility of inventory building, hoarding and black marketing, profiteering, and speculative trading in this situation, resulting in price rise of essential goods.
The states have been asked to take urgent steps to ensure availability of these commodities at fair prices for the public at large, a Home Ministry statement said.
The direction came following Home Minister Amit Shah’s order on Tuesday directing its Ministry officials to stop hoarding and black marketing across the country with the help of state administration.
Earlier, the Home Ministry, with its orders under the Disaster Management Act, has allowed manufacture, production, transport and other related supply-chain activities in respect of essential goods like foodstuff, medicines and medical equipment.
Further, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution is authorising states and Union Territories (UTs) to notify orders under the Essential Commodity (EC) Act, 1955 by relaxing the requirement of prior concurrence of the Central government up to June 30, 2020.
Offences under the EC Act are criminal offences and may result in imprisonment of seven years or fine or both.
The State and UT governments may also consider detention of offenders under the Prevention of Black-marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980.