Arun Jaitley warns penal action against pulse stock hoarders
New Delhi : Soaring pulse price in every nook and corner of country has forced state governments as well as central government to wake up to the price rise and bring a clamp down mechanism to control the situation. Recently, Madhya Pradesh government conducted midnight raids last week and recovered huge amounts of stock which were hoarderd by establishments and marts in the cities of Madhya Pradesh starting from capital Bhopal. with a plan to contain the price pressure, finance Minister Arun Jaitley called a damage control meeting consisting of Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Principal Secretary to PMO Nripendra Misra and senior government officials.
With dal prices touching a record Rs 210 per kg, the government on Wednesday went into a fire-fighting mode, raiding hoarders to recover about 36,000 tonnes of pulses, which along with the imports will be pushed into the market to cool prices. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who today called a meeting of the inter-ministerial group for the second time in a week, blamed the states for not doing enough to crack down on hoarders and black marketeers.
Jaitley informed that as much as 5,000 tonnes of imported pulses have already arrived and are being distributed to the states and another 3,000 tonnes were on the way. He said – In the national capital, imported tuar dal (pigeon peas) is being sold at a subsidized rate of Rs 120 per kg at nearly 500 outlets of Kendriya Bhandar and Safal. It is a matter of regret that most states are doing nothing to discharge their responsibility in taking action against hoarders. It is only in the last 3-4 days, after the central government amounted pressure, that staggering quantities of 36,000 tonnes of dal have been recovered. Raids are still continuing.
Jaitley warned of penal action against hoarders even as he expected prices to cool at retail level in the next two-three days after the confiscated stock quantity seized via raids and through imports have been released in the market.
Finance Minister explained the technicalities of cooloing off, of the prices, as and when the supply of pulses would get buffered in the market place. He explained – The raids are still continuing and over the next 2-3 days, more raids which are been conducted by the states, more hoarded quantity is likely to be recovered. There is time lag between wholesale price easing and retail price easing, therefore, it is slowly then translated into price easing into the market itself.
Jaitley said the government decided to invoke the Rs 500-crore Price Stabilization Fund that would be used to pay for transportation, handling, milling and processing — aimed at reducing the cost of imported pulses. This would help in increasing supplies and making pulses available in the retail markets at lower rates. Also, states have been asked to lift stock of pulses lying at ports like Jawaharlal Nehru Port near Mumbai.
To deal with supply crunch, the government has also decided to create a buffer stock of lentils mainly through imports. ‘Keeping in mind that some amount of stock is available with JNPT, the group decided that we build up a buffer stock preferably by imports to take care of the problem in future,’ said Jaitley to the media.