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Millennium Post

Eat and let eat

In this light, the Centre is right to bring in an amendment to the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 that would try cases of hoarding in special courts on one hand, while penalising the act in far more stringent manner to dissuade wholesale and retail suppliers from practicing such offences.

Clubbed along with increased period of detention under the prevention of Blackmarketing and Maintenance of Essential Commodities Act, 1980, the amendment, once implemented, would tighten the noose on delinquent hoarders, who not only store up vast quantities of perishable grains and essential food commodities, but also artificially create a bottleneck and hike the prices, thereby making short-term gains at the expense of both the farmer and the aam aadmi. Strengthening of the Act would not only ensure better enforcement of the law, but, as expressed by the food and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan, also would minimise the gulf between demand and supply, gradually facilitating price stabilisation and better, corruption-free public distribution system. 

Important food items such as onions, potatoes among others, have of late experienced a steep hike in respective prices, for a) fuel and freight charge hike, and b) tendency among suppliers and big agricultural sellers to lock up grains and vegetables to send the prices soaring.  When read together with a feeble monsoon and general economic slump, hoarding has had a cascading effect on the everyday economics of the Indian common man and woman, precipitating a general panic over further rise in prices and affordability spiralling out of control and above the income bracket of our middle and lower-middle classes.

Despite being one the biggest agricultural producers in the world, India has had to import onions from Afghanistan last year, which had cost the former Sheila Dikshit government its seat of power in Delhi. Cereal and vegetable price inflation is a compoundable problem and coming down hard on hoarding might be the beginning of finding a more durable solution to this menace.
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