Following a diktat from the Centre, at least five states — including Maharashtra, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh — stepped up a crackdown on the hoarding of pulses over the past few days and seized 5,801 tonne. The Opposition, meanwhile, hit out at the Narendra Modi government for its inability to control the price rise, as rates of some varieties of pulses surged to as high as R210 per kg in retail markets on Tuesday.
Raids were carried out in Mumbai, Aurangabad, Pune, Amravati, Nashik and Nagpur in Maharashtra, according to an official statement by the Union government. In Telangana, 1,820 raids were conducted and 2,546 tonne of pulses confiscated. As many as 25 locations in Madhya Pradesh witnessed raids, resulting in a seizure of 2,295 tonne. Similarly, Andhra Pradesh has seized 600 tonne of pulses in 56 raids. As much as 360 tonne of pulses were recovered in raids in Mysore district of Karnataka and searches were on in Bengaluru as well. Rajasthan has also intensified the enforcement of anti-hoarding curbs, while similar action against hoarding and black-marketing is also being taken in other states, according to the statement.
The Centre has been asking states to intensify anti-hoarding operations for quite a while now. Even on Monday, a video conference was held by Cabinet secretary Pradeep Kumar Sinha with chief secretaries of various states in which the former exhorted them to act against hoarders and curb speculations. Still, continuing an upward trend, tur prices on Tuesday rose to R210 per kg in the retail markets, while urad rose to R198 a kg, moong R135, masoor R120 and gram R84 per kg.
The central directive against hoarding came as it was convinced that excessive speculations on the harvest of the crop following the deficient monsoon for a second straight year through 2015 and “hoarding” were causing the recent “irrational” spike in pulse prices, said senior officials. Although production was down almost 10% in 2014-15 from a year before, imports were as high as 4.5 million tonne (MT) and, therefore, there were adequate stocks in the market. Although some amount of increase in pulse prices was natural, the sharp rise wasn’t in sync with fundamentals, they added. India — the world’s largest producer, consumer and importer of pulses — needs over 21 MT of pulses for annual consumption, while it produced 17.3 MT of pulses in 2014-15, thanks to wide-scale dry-spells last year.
The Cabinet secretary also reviewed the demand and supply of pulses with secretaries of consumer affairs, agriculture, commerce and other senior officials in a meeting on Monday in which it was decided that the government import 2,000 tonne of tur dal and 1,000 tonne of urad dal to contain the spurt in their prices.
Bihar, Centre in blame game
Blaming the Centre for the latest price rise in pulses, Congress leader Anand Sharma alleged only 6 lakh tonne have been imported this year against the usual shortfall of 40-50 lakh tonne. He said a buffer stock of pulses at this juncture would hardly help as the idea came too late. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar also took a jib at Modi, asking the PM to “keep your achche din with you and return people their purane din (old days)”.
However, blaming wrong policies adopted by Kumar in Bihar for the price rise in pulses there, Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Delhi and West Bengal, which have been using the Centre’s Price Stabilisation Fund, are selling pulses at R120 to R130 per kg through designated retail outlets.