Centre had advised Maharashtra govt in advance on pulse price rise

Mumbai: The Centre had issued a string of advisories to the Maharashtra government earlier this year about the need to take steps on granting exemption on stock-holding limits to check price rise of pulses, a state official has said.

On top of that, it had asked the state to initiate action against hoarding. However, the circulars in this regard were brought to the notice of state Food and Civil Supplies Minister Girish Bapat very late, a department official said. These were sent by the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution on April 15, June 17, August 17, September 21 and October 9, he said. On April 15, the Centre had said the state is free to grant exemption on stock-holding limits to producers (millers), wholesalers and retailers if prices of pulses, edible oil and seeds continue to harden.

In its second circular, the Centre had asked the state to take effective steps in de-hoarding operations under the Essential Commodities Act (EC), 1955. The NDA government on August 17 had again sent a reminder to the state on extension of the central order of September 30 on stock-holding limits. It had said that if there was no response from the state, it would be presumed that there was no objection to extension of validity.

In another communication, the Union ministry had informed the state that essential commodities in regulated warehouses were being exempted from stock-holding limits under the EC Act, 1955. It had also mandated that the warehouses would have to publish information of stocks available with them on a real-time basis. The Centre, in its letter addressed to Food and Civil Supplies Department Principal Secretary Deepak Kapoor, had drawn attention to the rise in prices of pulses and the need to act against hoarding by enforcing stock limits. Kapoor, however, remained unavailable for comments.

Asked about the inordinate delay in acting on the Centre’s circulars, Bapat said, “I received the Centre’s letter late… The traders were asked to route the newly-arrived imported pulses in the market to bring down the prices.” Asked if any action is being considered for the delay, Bapat answered in the affirmative. The minister said his priority now is to bring down prices of pulses. Sources in the department said it will take at least two days for pulses to flood the market. The government has now allowed traders and millers to offload stocks into the market by signing a indemnity bond that they would sell tur (arhar) dal at Rs 100 per kg.

Under pressure from the Opposition over high prices of pulses, Bapat yesterday said the government has decided to release the confiscated stock in godowns, which would effectively bring down the rate of tur dal to Rs 100 per kg. “We have decided that dal stored in godowns should be released immediately. There is a process that needs to be followed and we believe that there should be no shortage of dal in the state,” he had told reporters.

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