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MHA: States Must Ensure Availability of Essential Goods, under Lockdown to Fight COVID-19

Tooba Maher
Tooba Maher

Ajay Kumar Bhalla, Union Home Secretary, has written to all State Chief Secretaries to take immediate steps for ensuring availability of essential goods, by invoking provisions of the Essential Commodities (EC) Act 1955. This measure was taken, as part of maintaining smooth supply of essential items in the country.

It includes fixing of stock limits, capping of prices, increasing production, inspection of accounts of dealers and other such actions. There are also reports of loss of production due to several factors, especially reduction in labour supply. In this situation, there are chances of inventory building or hoarding and black marketing, profiteering, and speculative trading. Thus, resulting in price rise of essential goods.

Now, the States have been asked to take urgent steps to ensure availability of these commodities at fair prices for public to a large extent. Before, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), with its orders under the Disaster Management Act, has even allowed manufacture or production, transport & other related supply-chain activities with respect of essential goods such as foodstuff, medicines and medical equipment.

Adding to it, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of India, is authorizing States or Union Territories to notify orders under the EC Act, 1955. Thus, relaxing the requirement of prior concurrence of the Central Government till June 30, 2020.

It is to be noted that, offences under EC Act are criminal offences & may result in imprisonment of 7 years or fine or both. State or Union Territory Governments may also look for detention of offenders under the Prevention of Black-marketing & Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980.

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