Centre plans stringent laws to check hoarding of food items

Bhubaneswar, Nov 7:  The Union government is planning to amend existing Essential Commodities Act to change hoarding of essential food items as a non-bailable offence from bailable one and will extend the jail term for the offence from six months to one year, said Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Ram Vilas Paswan at a press meet here.

'We have already included potato and onion in the list of essential commodities to check artifical price rise during off season (monsoon) period. We will amend the Essential Commodities Act and Prevention of Black Marketing and Maintenance of Supplies Act to make the crime a non-bailable offense and jail term for it will be one year,' he said.

In past few months, sharp rise in potato and onion rates across the country has forced the Union government to rethink its policy of food storage and pricing. It has even announced to import potato to rein in the rising rates.

In Odisha, potato prices have been very volatile with the main supplier West Bengal imposing restrictions on transportation of this tuber variety. State food supplies minister demanded that Centre must take steps to ensure that there should be no restriction on inter-state movement of food items.

'We are requesting the Centre to focus on barrier-free movement of food commodities so that such artificial rise of rates will not happen,' said Sanjay Das Burma, state food and civil supplies minister at the press meet.

Paswan said, the Union government is considering changes in Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act to ease restrictions on inter-state transportation, as current provision in the act empowers a state government to restrict movement of food items out of state in extraordinary situations.

Last year, Food Corporation of India (FCI) had approved construction of 75,000 tonne storage capacity for Odisha, out of which 40,000 tonne capacity is yet to be constructed. The Union minister said, additional storage capacities will be created by August next year.

'About 40,000 tonne storage capacity could not be built due to land and other issues. As the land acquisition issues have been sorted out, I think the additional capacity will be constructed by (August) 2015,' said Paswan.

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