Coronavirus lockdown: Invoke Essential Commodities Act to curb black marketing, Home Secretary tells States

Essential commodities being transported on a horse-cart during the complete lockdown imposed in the wake of coronavirus pandemic in Patna, Bihar.   | Photo Credit: Ranjeet Kumar

Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote to all State Chief Secretaries on Wednesday to ensure the availability of essential goods by invoking the provisions of the Essential Commodities (EC) Act 1955.

Offences under the EC Act are criminal offences and may result in imprisonment of seven years or fine or both. The State and Union Territory governments may also consider detention of offenders under the Prevention of Black-marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said.

“I would urge you to personally take urgent steps to ensure availability of these commodities at fair prices for public at large,” Mr. Bhalla said in his letter.

These measures include fixing of stock limits, capping of prices, enhancing production, inspection of accounts of dealers and other such actions, a statement by the MHA said.

Loss of production

“There have been reports of loss of production due to various factors, especially reduction in labour supply. In this situation, there is a possibility of inventory building/hoarding and black marketing, profiteering, and speculative trading, resulting in price rise of essential goods. The States have been asked to take urgent steps to ensure availability of these commodities at fair prices for public at large,” the MHA said.

Watch: What will be affected and what will be available during a lockdown?

Earlier, with an order issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the MHA had allowed manufacture/production, transport and other related supply-chain activities in respect of essential goods such as foodstuff, medicines and medical equipment.

Further, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution is authorising States and Union Territories to notify orders under the EC Act, 1955 by relaxing the requirement of prior concurrence of the Central government up to June 30, 2020.

On Tuesday, Home Minister Amit Shah reviewed the status of essential commodities and issued directives to take swift and strict action against hoarders.

Watch | COVID-19: Masks and sanitisers are now essential commodities

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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 4:34:40 AM |

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