Food and Civil Supplies, hoarding of: India
Regulatory chaos in the states
UPA steps to curb price rise failed, will NDA's succeed?
Subodh Varma TIG
During UPA 2, minister for consumer affairs K V Thomas told the Lok Sabha 11 different times that state governments had been told to seriously tackle inflation by acting against hoarders and black marketeers.
The NDA has listed potatoes and onions as essential commodities and moved to make hoarding a non-bailable offence. This may discourage hoarding, but the record of state governments in tackling hoarders in recent years has been dismal. The Modi government is dealing with the very same state govern ments as did UPA 2.
From data supplied by state governments to the consumer affairs ministry , and from answers to Parliament queries, it turns out that between 2008 and 2013, a total of 26,472 persons were prosecuted under the Essential Commodities Act, the Prevention of Black-marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act and rules flowing from it. This was after nearly 11 lakh raids were carried out and nearly Rs 1,200 crore worth of commodities were confiscated.
But the most worrisome part is: Only 2,484 people were actually convicted. That's a conviction rate of less than 10%. It's unlikely to deter hoarders and black marketeers, especially if they are the big fish.
“Regulatory chaos has prevailed in the states,“ explained a senior state government official in the food and civil supplies department, who spoke on condition of anonymity . In the UPA reign, a series of orders were passed dismantling or restricting the rules on how much stocks could be kept and other aspects. Even the judiciary struck down actions taken on various technical grounds, the official said.
The data on raids and prosecution gives a glimpse of the chaos. Several states have not been submitting any information at all -like Madhya Pradesh has not submitted any report after 2008, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand have not reported from even before and many other states have given patchy reports, omitting some months here and there.