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“We’ll crack down on hoarding of food, cement and steel”

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Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Kamal Nath at a news coference in Singapore on Friday.
Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Kamal Nath at a news coference in Singapore on Friday.

P.S. Suryanarayana

Some of the legal provisions will also be invoked, warns Kamal Nath

“India should guard against economic slowdown in U.S.”

Gem and jewellery sector may lose some space

SINGAPORE: “We will not hesitate to take the strongest possible measures, including using some of the legal provisions we have, against hoarding, against profiteering, whether it is in food or in cement or in steel,” Union Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath on Friday.

“We have Section 18 (G) of the Industrial Development Regulation Act. We do not propose using this; and the cement and steel industries must also ensure that the government does not look at it. That is a very stringent provision. We have to persuade them, counsel them. I don’t want to [see them as] buckling [under pressure].”

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of an “Incredible India@60” event here, Mr. Kamal Nath also promised a “package” of jobs-generating foreign trade policy

He said “India needs to guard against” the current economic slowdown in the United States and its “frenzy effect” across the world. For now, this “sentiment” about an impending global economic slowdown would not have a significant impact on India.

India was fine-tuning its economic policies to meet the needs of those below the poverty line in these new global circumstances. However, the country had so far remained insulated from this worldwide “frenzy,” because of a domestic economic “momentum” and “resilience” which ensured that the “growth effect is moving across India.”

Emphasising the “great supply-side challenges at the moment in India, with 15 million people moving from having one meal a day to two meals a day,” Mr. Kamal Nath said: “Even if you exclude China, it is 25 million, between India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Indonesia [in this category]; and that itself is a great pressure on the global food situation.”

Doha round

On India’s other challenges on the global economic scene now, the Minister said: “Our deadline [for the Doha Round of trade talks] is May 31 for either putting it on the back burner or really cooking something. I am looking forward to the agriculture paper; the U.S. and the European Union must recognise that unless they come up with something on the table, there is no way we can have progress in this [sector].”

Free trade agreement

The long-pending free trade agreement between India and the Association of South East Asian Nations should be concluded in two months, he said. “Everything has been ironed out. There is just some minor issue which we have with Indonesia. We are ironing it out.”

On a parallel track, he said, “there are no more issues left on the India-Singapore [comprehensive economic cooperation] agreement.”

On the nitty-gritty of the impact of U.S economic slowdown on India, Mr. Kamal Nath said: “The apparel sector is not going to be affected. There will be some attack on the gem and jewellery sector [though]. But, with increasing demand in other countries, probably that space which we are losing [in the U.S.] will be available to us in other countries.”


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