| Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan addresses the news meet in Patna on Sunday. Picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey |
Union consumer affairs, food and public distribution minister Ram Vilas Paswan said on Sunday amendments in Essential Commodities Act would be brought in the ongoing Parliament session.
The amendments would bring in stern laws to check the influence of hoarders who suddenly hike the prices of onions, potatoes and other vegetables.
Under the said amendments, an alleged hoarder would face non-bailable charges. Earlier, the offence was bailable, taking the advantage of which many persons secured bail easily after committing the crime.
Paswan, who was in Patna, said: “The government has enough stock of essential commodities and there is no worry for common people. A few weeks ago, there was a sudden rise in prices of essential commodities but the government successfully checked that.”
A person booked for hoarding was kept in judicial custody for a maximum of six months earlier but that has been extended to one year under the amendments.
Paswan also blamed the state government for introducing the Food Security Act without proper planning. “The state government introduced the act on March 4 this year without identifying the beneficiaries,” he said.
Under the Food Security Act, the brainchild programme of the UPA government, every individual living below the poverty line gets 3kg rice and 2kg wheat in a month.
In Bihar, there are around 7.7 crore people covered under the Food Security Act. Around 84 per cent of the rural populace, which is around 6.9 crore, and 70 lakh people in urban areas are covered under the act.
However, the state minister for food and consumer protection Shyam Rajak said: “The state government has seriously implemented the Food Security Act and the minister’s (Paswan’s) observations are without facts.”
The minister also spoke of bringing changes to common agriculture marketing system under which farmers can sell their product in other states too.
Paswan had recently attributed the sudden price rise of vegetables such as potato, tomato and onion to hoarders stocking them up for two or three days to create an artificial shortage and panic, but the production figures proved no shortage.
According to the figures presented by the Union minister in 2012-13, the production of potatoes was 453 lakh metric tonnes, which went up to 464 lakh metric tonnes in 2013-14.
Similarly, onion production last year was 168 lakh metric tonnes, which went up to 193 lakh metric tonnes.
In 2012-13, the wheat production was 935 lakh metric tonnes, which went up to 960 lakh metric tonnes.
Similarly, rice production was 1,050 lakh metric tonnes and increased to 1,062 lakh metric tonnes.