Centre seeks states inputs on making Essential Commodities Act simpler

The central government on Tuesday asked states for suggestions to make the six-decade-old Essential Commodities Act simpler by diluting certain stringent provisions that currently provide for jail term even for a minor offence. 


 Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan also asked states to lift pulses and onions from the central buffer stock and sell these commodities in retail markets to keep prices under control. 


 He also announced that inter-state ration card portability is expected to begin from January 2020 in 14 states and expressed confidence that target of 'One Nation One Ration Card' would be achieved by June next year as envisaged. 


 The minister was speaking to media after holding the fifth national consultation meeting of ministers of States/UTs to deliberate on various issues. 


 Paswan suggested that "States may look at simplification of the Essential Commodities Act, including penalty provisions that would make it more attuned to the government's policy regarding ease of doing business and promote investment", an official statement said. 


 On onion and pulses, the minister said: We have sufficient buffer stock of pulses and onions. We have asked all States/UTs to place their demand and lift pulses and onions from buffer stock. 


 The minister informed that the Centre has a buffer stock of 27 lakh tonnes of pulses and 56,000 tonnes of onions which States can lift for direct retailing through ration shops, co-operatives, state agencies and marketing federation. 


 Elaborating on the meeting, Consumer Affairs Secretary A K Srivastava said States have been also advised to create 'Price Stabilisation Fund', similar on the lines of one established by the Central government. He said four States already have such fund. 


 On the Essential Commodities Act, the secretary said: There are penal provisions in the law which are stringent and outdated. We have asked suggestions from States how to simplify it.