Invoke Essential Commodities Act to ensure uninterrupted supply of essential goods during lockdown, MHA tells states, UTs

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Updated: Apr 08, 2020 1:15 PM

The measures under the Act include fixing of stock limits, capping of prices, enhancing production, inspection of accounts of dealers among others. Offences under the Act are criminal offences and invite imprisonment of 7 years or fine or both.

Pune’s wholesale fruits and vegetable markets. (File photo Indian Express)

The Ministry of Home Affairs has asked all states and Union Territories to take urgent steps to ensure the smooth supply of essential items during the nationwide lockdown by invoking the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla has written to all state Chief Secretaries to take urgent steps to ensure uninterrupted supply of essential goods in view of the lockdown.

The MHA direction comes following reports of shortage of essential items in different cities. It asked states to take steps to prevent hoarding and black marketing and ensure essential items are available to the public at fair prices.

Bhalla noted that there are reports of loss production due to various factors, especially reduction in labour supply. In this situation, he said, the possibility of inventory building/hoarding and black marketing, profiteering, and speculative trading, and the resulting price rise of essential goods cannot be ruled out.

“State/UT governments are advised to take urgent steps to ensure availability of these essential goods by invoking provisions of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955,” the Home Secretary said.

The measures under the act include fixing of stock limits, capping of prices, enhancing production, inspection of accounts of dealers and others. Offences under the act are criminal offences and invite imprisonment of 7 years or fine or both.

The Home Secretary also suggested to states and UTs that they may consider detention of offenders under the Prevention of Black marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980. He added that the Centre, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution are authorising the states and UTs to notify orders under the 1955 Act up to June 30.

Meanwhile, the Union Home Ministry said that the death toll due to the novel coronavirus rose to 149 and the number of cases to 5,194 in the country on Wednesday. While the number of active COVID-19 cases is 4,643, as many as 401 people were cured and discharged and one had migrated. The total number of cases include 70 foreign nationals.

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