The Centre has asked State and the Union Territories to invoke a stringent law to punish those indulging in hoarding and black marketing of essential commodities.
In a letter to chief secretaries of all the States, union home secretary Ajay Bhalla said that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), under the Disaster Management Act, has allowed manufacture/production, transport and other related supply-chain activities in respect of essential goods like foodstuff, medicines and medical equipment.
“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 letter said.
He also asked States to take urgent steps to ensure availability of essential goods, by invoking provisions of the Essential Commodities (EC) Act, 1955.
These measures include fixing of stock limits, capping of prices, enhancing production, inspection of accounts of dealers and other such actions, he said.
Bhalla also said that offences under EC Act are criminal offences and may result in imprisonment of 7 years or fine or both.
State/Union Territory Governments may also consider detention of offenders under the Prevention of Black-marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980,he added.
The home secretary said the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, is authorising the states and the union territories to notify orders under the EC Act, 1955 by relaxing the requirement or prior concurrence of the central government up to June 30, 2020.