With the central government turning down the state’s proposed bill to curb prices, essentials like pulses could cost you much more this festive season.
The Centre refused to approve the bill, asking the state to make punishment provisions harsher. No approval means no legislation to take action against traders or middlemen — making it difficult for the state government to control prices.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and his BJP government approved the Maharashtra Pulses Price Control Bill in April this year, after facing severe criticism for failing to control prices of tur dal. It was sent to the Centre for the President’s nod.
But the Centre objected to the provision of a jail term from three months to a year in the proposed legislation because the essential commodities act to curb hoarding practices and ensure delivery commodities allows for imprisonment of seven years as the maximum punishment, sources said.
“The Centre made it clear the state’s act should be under the purview of the essential commodities act,” a senior official from the food and civil supplies department told HT.
Mahesh Pathak, the principal secretary, food and civil supplies department, said, “The Centre wants changes in our legislation, including the penal action. We are ready to make it seven years. But the law and judiciary department is insisting on the Cabinet’s approval before sending it to the central government. The decision will be taken either by the food and civil supplies minister, Girish Bapat,or by the chief secretary.”
Pathak also said shortage of the commodities was the main cause for the rise in prices. “We are trying to push more stock in the market. After tur dal, we are making chana dal (split bengal gram) available at Rs70 a kg. The stock of 500 tonnes of chana dal will be available in the 15 days.”
According to the proposed bill, the government would take into account the availability of pulses, their demand and supply while fixing the prices. Once the rate is fixed, it will be applicable for six months.
Sources further said the proposed legislation will take at least a year before it comes into effect. Once sent back to the Centre, the home ministry will take opinions from the ministries concerned — agriculture, commerce and trade. It will then got to the President’s office and if cleared, the state will have to pass the bill in the Maharashtra legislature and send it back to the President’s office for ratification.