Are pulses and onions pinching your pockets a little too much? It may be because the state administration failed to take measures to control prices, despite alerts from the Centre about possible hikes in the prices of agricultural goods, owing to an erratic monsoon.
The ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution and department of consumer affairs issued three circulars in June and July this year to state governments, alerting them about a possible increase in prices of essential commodities, especially vegetables and pulses.
But with the prices of two essential pulses — tur dal and udid dal — nearly doubling in October compared to the same time last year, and onion prices hitting the roof, consumer activists have alleged inaction by the government.
“The CM of Maharashtra is responsible and answerable to the public about why timely action was not taken, even after three alerts from the Union government. When the Centre asked states to take action to reduce the impact of the price rise, what stopped the state? What inference should the public draw? Was this done under pressure from traders?” said Shirish Deshpande, the chairman of the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat.
Repeated calls and text messages from HT to state chief secretary Swadheen Kshatriya and state food and civil supplies minister Girish Bapat went unanswered.
Between June and July, the Centre issued three circulars, the copies of which are with Hindustan Times.
The first circular issued on June 10 by C Viswanath, secretary in the ministry, pointed out prices of essential commodities generally show an upward trend, increasing from July and reaching its peak in November. As this period coincides with the festive season, hoarding, cartelisation and black marketing by middlemen could accentuate problems, it said.
This circular also said a price monitoring cell should be put in place to monitor prices of essential commodities such as onions, tur dal (pigeon pea) and Udid dal in both the wholesale and retail markets.
The second circular was issued on June 17 by Surendra Singh, deputy secretary in the ministry. It asked state administrations to impose stock limits and act against hoarders by conducting raids.
The third circular, issued on July 17 by Singh, told chief secretaries of states that their governments were delegated with powers to check food inflation and ensure availability of food to the public at reasonable rates under the essential commodity (EC) act. The Centre suggested market intervention by procuring goods in bulk and selling it through civil supplies department and cooperative societies, especially to economically weaker sections.
Tud dal, which cost around Rs80 a kg last October, is currently being sold at up to Rs170 a kg. Udid dal was Rs82 a kg last October, but is available at Rs165 a kg now.