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

A video on what the Essential Commodities Act is and what commodities come under the Act.

Updated - March 28, 2020 03:15 pm IST

Published - March 16, 2020 01:24 pm IST

The Essential Commodities Act or ECA was enacted in 1955 to make certain commodities available to consumers at fair prices. It is used by the Government to regulate the production, supply and distribution of commodities it declares ‘essential’. The list of items under the ECA include drugs, fertilisers, pulses and edible oils, petroleum and petroleum products.

The Centre can include new commodities as and when the need arises, and take them off the list once the situation improves. For instance, masks and hand sanitisers were declared as essential commodities on March 13, 2020. This is due to a shortage of these commodities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 2 ply and 3 ply surgical masks, N95 masks and hand sanitisers have also been included in the list of items under ECA till June 30, 2020.

The State has also issued an advisory under the Legal Metrology Act to ensure these items are not sold for more than their MRP. The ECA gives consumers protection against irrational spikes in prices of essential commodities.

Under ECA, the States and Union Territories can ask manufacturers to enhance their production capacity. This is to make these products more widely available to consumers.

An offender under the Essential Commodities Act can be punished with imprisonment up to seven years, or a fine, or both. Consumers can also register complaints in this regard with the National Consumer Helpline 1800-11-4000 or at .

Also read: Essential Commodities Act is outdated, must go, says Economic Survey

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