In order to check inflation, the government has amended the metrology rules which would allow it to fix retail prices of essential commodities such as pulses and sugar in extraordinary situations.
Under the present system, retail prices are fixed by market forces, leaving very little room for the government to check an undue spike in prices.
“We have already notified amendments to the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, to include a provision to fix the retail price of any essential commodity,” a senior Consumer Affairs Ministry official told PTI.
The notification says that “if the retail sale price of any essential commodity is fixed and notified by the competent authority under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, the same shall apply,” he said.
This rule will apply to essential commodities that are sold both in loose and packaged form in retail markets.
Asked if the government will fix the retail prices of essential items on a daily basis henceforth, the official said, “Not exactly. It will be done only in extraordinary situations when retail prices shoot up abnormally.”
Currently, there are measures to control wholesalers and importers and not retailers. This provision will help the government take proactive steps in the interest of consumers, the official added.
The Centre has been battling to curb the price rise in pulses, which touched almost Rs. 200 per kg in the retail markets in June 2016 due to a shortfall in local output in view of drought.
The abnormal rise in pulses prices forced the NDA government to take a host of measures, including imports and a hike in MSP, to boost domestic supply and now pulses rates have cooled down to an extent.
It may be noted that a rise in onion prices have impacted electoral fortunes in the past, especially in Delhi. In 1998, Congress came to power in Delhi, defeating the incumbent BJP government, riding on high onion prices.