Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will preside over the day-long meeting of Chief Ministers here on Saturday to discuss the prices of essential commodities and measures to check inflation.

Dr Singh will sit through the entire day’s proceedings and personally listen to what the Chief Ministers have to stay on the subject.

So far about 20 Chief Ministers have given their consent to attend the crucial meeting that has been convened by the Prime Minister. Some of the Opposition parties-ruled States have asked the Centre not to shift the blame on States for the surge in prices of essential commodities.

However, the attempt on the part of Central government will be not to score political points but to emphasise the need to pool in all resources and efforts to bring relief to the common people. Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Agriculture and Food Minister Sharad Pawar will make key contributions.

In a change of tack, instead of harping on States to take action to de-hoard stocks of essentials, the Centre plans to showcase the “best practices” and interventions by several State governments to streamline the Public Distribution System for making available to the beneficiaries foodgrains at subsidised rates and to moderate prices.

Having identified the domestic factors that are not allowing prices to fall, the Centre will impress upon States to take steps to bring down the margins between wholesale and retail prices of essential commodities particularly branded edible oils. The States will have to go in for pro-active market interventions to control the prices of essential commodities and vegetables like onions and potatoes.

So far most of the State governments have imposed stock holding limits on sugar but are lagging in clamping stock limits for specific commodities like pulses, rice, edible oilseeds and paddy to prevent hoarding and black-marketing and to keep the prices of these commodities under check.

The Centre will also urge the States to enforce the Essential Commodities Act and the Prevention of Black Marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980 to prevent malpractices on essential commodities. So far only four States including Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Orissa have implemented the Act.

It is expected that the Prime Minister will ask States to look at enhancing the production and productivity of food crops and procurement to augment supplies. The States need to accelerate the expenditure for crop development and need to develop a mechanism for monitoring the schemes.

Convergence of schemes like crop production, water management, availability of inputs, marketing support, storage facilities, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) and watershed development is the need of the hour.

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