Fighting the pulses fire
Apropos of the news report “Food ministry writes to commerce ministry on import of pulses” (FE, December 30), there is no doubt that food minister Ram Vilas Paswan is thinking on the right lines, to curb a possible hike in the prices of pulses in the wake of some really bad experience. More so, when there are enough indications that kharif production is not going to meet our domestic requirements in the coming year, too. Our usual import sources like Myanmar, Canada and Australia are also faced with an awkward situation of sharply declined output, owing to drought this year. Perhaps, the food ministry wishes to play safe and start preparations in advance so that it is not, once again, caught on the wrong foot as had happened last year. No wonder then that Paswan has asked his counterpart in the commerce ministry to direct the trading firms such as MMTC and STC to import various ‘much in demand’ pulses and take the necessary remedial steps to save for a rainy (rainless?) day. Mind you, the retail prices of these pulses are still ruling at R170-180 per kg. Interestingly, a marginal fall since September may be attributed to several measures taken by the government, which included ‘on the spot’ imports and across the country raids on hoarders. Can you imagine the situation otherwise? However, it may be pertinent to point out that retail prices were in the range of R80-90 only a year ago. So, the moot question still remains: Why are pulses prices are reigning so high? Are they going to stay forever at such levels? Is all this, courtesy some dishonest traders’ and hoarders’ futures trading motives, much to the discomfiture of a common man? What ails our administrative capabilities to nip this evil in the bud? One hopes that the recent searches carried out by the I-T department on pulses traders and commodity business centres in several cities unearths some underhand and spurious deals behind the hoarding of pulses and related financial irregularities which might have led to the high prices.
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