In order to check inflation, the government has amended the metrology rules which would allow it to fix retail prices of essential commodities like pulses and sugar in extra-ordinary situations.
Under the present system, retail prices are fixed by market forces, leaving very little room for the government to check undue spike in prices.
"We have already notified amendments to the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, to include a provision to fix retail price of any essential commodity," a senior Consumer Affairs Ministry official said.
The notification says that "if retail sale price of any essential commodity is fixed and notified by the competent authority under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, the same shall apply," he said.
This rule will apply to essential commodities that are sold both in loose and packaged form in retail markets. Asked if government will fix retail prices of essential items on a daily basis hence forth, the official said, "Not exactly. It will be done only in extra-ordinary situations when retail prices shoot up abnormally."
Currently, there are measures to control wholesalers and importers and not retailers. This provision will help the government to take proactive steps in the interest of consumers, the official added.
The Centre had been battling to curb price rise in pulses, which touched almost Rs 200 per kg in retail markets in June 2016 due to shortfall in local output in view of drought.
The abnormal rise in pulses prices forced the NDA government to take a host of measures, including imports and hike in MSP, to boost domestic supply and now pulses rates have cooled down to an extent.
It may be noted that rise in onion prices had impacted the electoral fortunes in the past, especially in Delhi. In 1998, Congress had come to power in Delhi, defeating the incumbent BJP government, riding on high onion prices.