| Singh: Big challenge
New Delhi Feb. 22: A special cell to monitor prices daily has been set up at the behest of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who has also asked states to crack down on speculators and hoarders.
In a letter to chief ministers yesterday, Singh said the special cell will be in the cabinet secretariat and will provide inputs to state governments on inflation.
He said the state governments should tone up their administration to check the prices of essential commodities.
“You may like to put in place an appropriate mechanism for regular intensive monitoring of the prices of commodities in order to promptly detect any short-term fluctuations and take necessary corrective action,” the Prime Minister said. He said the states can check price rise by curbing malpractices, profiteering and hoarding.
He said the ban on forward trading in urad and tur — these are pulses — has checked profiteering to an extent, and the states must now target anti-socials who are still engaged in speculative activities.
The cabinet committee on prices today decided to improve further the supply of essential commodities.
“The CCP reviewed the prices and decided that the government will take all the steps — fiscal, monetary and supply management — to moderate inflation,” finance minister P Chidamabaram told reporters after the meeting of the committee.
He said sugar prices have fallen and onion prices will be down in the coming weeks on the availability of new stocks. The situation will also improve for other essential items, including wheat and pulses, with fresh crops set to enter the market.
The finance minister said the inflation, which touched 6.73 per cent early this month, is due to supply constraints and upswing in prices in the international commodity markets.
Chidambaram said the agriculture ministry was considering the parliamentary standing committee’s report on whether there should be a ban on futures trading in agriculture.
The meeting also approved the recommendations of the Abhijit Sen committee on foodgrain policy, which proposed the strengthening of the public distribution system for food security
The government is likely to bring in a host of measures to curb inflation, which hit a two year high of 6.73 per cent, including steep cuts in customs and excise duties in the coming budget on core sector products, besides encouraging bulk import of milk powder, lentils and edible oils.
Top officials said a committee of secretaries set up to look into these matters would soon decide on the time table for these steps.
The government has already asked state run or supported agencies like STC, MMTC to contract imports to cool down prices.