Getting flak over its inability to control the spiralling prices of tur dal, the state cabinet on Tuesday approved a new law, which will help it fix the rate at which pulses are sold across Maharashtra.
Called the Maharashtra Pulses Price Control bill, the law will empower the government to intervene and fix the base rate for up to a year by issuing a notification. It also has a provision for penalty and a jail term from three months to a year to those found violating the law. The bill will now be sent to the President for his assent, before it is officially notified and brought into effect.
The rising prices of tur dal, which touched the Rs150-a-kg mark last week, had sent the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government into a tizzy, as it was attacked by both the Opposition and ally Shiv Sena.
While the government looks at the law as a quick fix to the rise in prices of pulses, government officials said its implementation was far from feasible.
According to food and civil supplies minister Girish Bapat, the act will avoid a sudden spike in prices, like the one witnessed recently. “We will divide the state into four areas -- rural areas, district towns, A-class municipalities and metropolitan areas. A base rate will be fixed for each category and separate rates will then be decided for each area depending on the local dynamics there. However, this will be done only in times of a crisis.”
Bapat said this would mean there will be a difference in the rates for Mumbai, a metropolitan area, and its neigbouring districts owing to variations in cost of transportation, cost of labour, etc. “We will fix a base rate, but there might be 7-10% fluctuation in the range owing to local factors. The government, however, is yet to frame the rules for the Act. We will decide on the mechanism while framing the rules,” he said.
The bill makes it mandatory for traders to print the prices of pulses on the packets and give receipts to consumers. Moreover, it has a provision to fix the responsibility on the officials of any firm, organization or establishment found to be violating the law.
An insider, not wishing to be named, said the plan was a knee-jerk reaction to the criticism and seemed impractical. “The department is yet to frame the rules to fix the rates. While there has been little monitoring of our rationing system, how will we keep a check on the private traders sell pulses at?”
Deepak Kapoor, secretary of the department, said, “We will fix the rates for all areas in Mumbai. It is definitely workable. We will look at different factors in each area has and then finalise the rates.”