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Potato, onion on ‘essential’ platter

Bhubaneswar, July 5: Soaring prices of onion and potato has prompted the state government to declare the two vegetables as essential commodities and crack whip on hoarders and black marketeers.

The government has asked the district collectors to intensify raids and initiate criminal proceedings against violators.

The Centre has already declared these two vegetables as essential commodities.

According to provisions of the Essential Commodities Act, hoarders and black marketeers are liable for criminal prosecution and the hoarded materials are to be confiscated and sold in the market.

The state government is also moving the Centre to make the offence as “non-bailable” instead of “bailable”.

Food supply and consumer welfare secretary Madhu Sundan Padhi said: “After the Centre has brought potato and onion under the essential commodities category, we have decided to follow suit. Under the Essential Commodities Act, we have decided to fix a quota on stocks of these two items. There will be a stock limit for wholesalers and retailers.”

While onion prices have gone up for the third time in a fortnight to Rs 32 a kg now, potato, which was selling for Rs 18 a kg a week ago, is selling at Rs 20 today.

Though the state government has asked traders to maintain a maximum gap of Rs 2.50 to Rs 3 between retail and wholesale prices of potato and a gap of Rs 3 to Rs 4 in case of onion, it seems that no one is paying any heed to it.

With a shortage looming, the civil supplies and consumer welfare department today asked traders to maintain the stipulated gap or face stern action.

An official said they were more concerned about onion prices as compared to potato prices.

“The price of potato is hovering between Rs 20 and Rs 22, but the price of onion is rising constantly,” said Pratima Behera, 36, a home-maker, who stays at Nayapalli.

In Berhampur, raids were conducted at Kamapali, Bijipur and Giri markets to find out whether the prescribed gap was being maintained between wholesale and retail prices.

“We conducted raids to review the price gap between retail and wholesale markets. Though the gap was okay, we found two shop owners at Kamapalli market selling potato and onion with non-accurate weights. We imposed compound penalty on them,” said assistant civil supplies officer Purushottam Lenka.

The traders were asked to display rate charts of potato and onion at all wholesale and retail shops. “We have asked all shop owners to follow the instructions,” said Lenka.

The state government is formulating an action plan for six months to regulate the demand, supply and prices of these two essential commodities, said Padhi.