State seeks power to verify stock

Aim is to prevent hoarding and arrest the price line

Changes in Essential Commodities Act proposed

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State government will seek power to check and verify the stock of essential commodities in the warehouses of traders to prevent hoarding and arrest the price line.

Official sources told The Hindu that since essential commodities figured on the concurrent list, clearance of the Centre was mandatory for the State government to propose amendments to the Essential Commodities Act.

The Food and Civil Supplies Department was understood to have discussed and formulated the proposals to be placed before the Centre. There were complaints that the action taken by the government to check hoarding was not bearing fruition for want of powers to verify the stock of traders.

Infringement on right

Any attempt to verify the stock would be construed as an infringement on their right for free trading.

Even after getting specific information about some traders holding huge quantities of essential commodities, the State government was unable to act due to lack of powers, the sources said.

Provision inadequate

In spite of extensive amendments made to the Act from time to time, the provisions had not been adequate and effective for expeditious and stringent action to ensure the availability of essential commodities at fair prices and curb hoarding, black-marketing and profiteering in such commodities.

The present move was expected to overcome such deficiencies and add more vigour to the drive launched by the government to check the rise in prices of essentials in the State, the sources said.

Retail sector

The move to seek more power assumes significance as it comes in the wake of the controversy over the entry of multinational companies into the retail sector in the State.

Small and marginal traders, who have protested against the entry of such companies into their turf, have expressed fears that the bulk purchase of commodities at source by these majors will pave the way for artificial scarcity and trigger inflation.

More items

It has been proposed to modify the definition of essential commodities and include more items within the purview of the State government list.

The proposals to amend the Act, if approved by the Centre, will clear the impediments in the way of the Food and Civil Supplies Department personnel to check the stockrooms of traders.

Other options

“If the official procedure fails to evoke timely response from the Centre, the government will have to think of other options,” the sources said.