NEW DELHI, April 8 - The Centre has asked all State Chief Secretaries to take urgent steps to ensure availability of essential goods, by invoking provisions of the Essential Commodities (EC) Act 1955.
Official sources said that as part of maintaining smooth supply of essential items in the country, Union Home Secretary, Ajay Kumar Bhalla has written to the Chief Secretaries detailing the measures like fixing of stock limits, capping of prices, enhancing production, inspection of accounts of dealers and other such actions.
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 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 essential commodities at fair prices for public at large.
Earlier, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), with its orders 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.
Further, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, is authorising States to notify orders under the EC Act, 1955 by relaxing the requirement of prior concurrence of the Central Government up to June 30, 2020.
Offences under EC Act are criminal offences and may result in imprisonment of seven years or fine or both. State Governments may also consider detention of offenders under the Prevention of Black-marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980, said sources.