Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla has written to all the state chief secretaries to ensure the availability of essential goods by invoking provisions of the Essential Commodities Act 1955.
The Home Secretary also urged for steps to be taken to prevent hoarding and black marketing and ensure essential items are available at fair prices to the public.
The letter read, "The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) vide its orders under the Disaster Management Act have allowed manufacture/production, transport and other related supply chain activities in respect of essential goods like foodstuff, medicines and medical equipment. However, there are reports of loss of production due to various factors, especially the reduction in labour supply. In this situation, the possibility of inventory building and black marketing, profiteering, and speculative trading and the resulting price rise of essential goods cannot be ruled out."
"States and Union territory governments are advised to take urgent steps to ensure availability of these essential goods, by invoking provisions of the Essential Commodities (EC) Act 1955. These measures include fixing of stock limits, capping of prices, enhancing production, inspection of accounts of dealers and other such actions," the letter read.
"Offences under the EC act are criminal offences and may result in imprisonment of 7 years or fine or both. States/Union territory governments may also consider detention of offenders under the Prevention of Black-marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980," the letter said.
It further read, "Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Government of India are authorising States/Union Territories to notify order under the EC Act 1955 by relaxing requirement of the prior concurrence of the Central Government up to June 30, 2020. I would urge you to personally take urgent steps to ensure the availability of these commodities at fair prices for the public at large.