Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Centre opposes state Bill to regulate price of pulses

Indian Express‎‎‎‎: Mumbai: Wednesday, April 12, 2017.
The Centre has ruled that the state’s much-touted draft Bill on regulation of prices of pulses made no economic sense and goes against the basic principles of a free market economy. Last April, the Devendra Fadnavis government, which had come under criticism over spiralling prices of pulses, had publicised the fact that it was the country’s first state to adopt a price-control mechanism for pulses when it cleared the draft Bill. But the Presidential assent for the Bill hasn’t come a year later. Documents obtained by the Congress under the Right to Information (RTI) Act now indicate that the Bill may stay in cold storage. The RTI documents, which were released on Tuesday, reveal that the Union agriculture ministry’s Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare has raised strong objections to the proposed Bill.
The department has commented, “In a free market economy, prices of any commodity, including pulses, are determined by the market forces of supply and demand. The market prices provide a signal both to the producers (farmers) and consumers regarding the demand and supply situation. Accordingly, both the producers and the consumers take decisions on consumption and production of a particular commodity. The proposed Bill goes against the basic principles of the free market economy. Any artificial control on prices etc of pulses may create further distortion and parallel economy.”
While the state’s plan was to cap retail and wholesale sale prices for tur dal, black gram, green gram, lentils, beans, etc, across the state taking into account the availability of pulses, their demand and supply, the central government has opposed the state’s direct intervention.
“In case the Government of Maharashtra wants to protect the interest of consumers, it can provide pulses to the vulnerable sections at a subsidised price through the Public Distribution System (PDS). This will limit the distortionary impact on market prices and the market price signal for farmers will not be adversely impacted. Farmers will continue to have the relevant market signal to make investments in increasing production of pulses,” the Centre has observed, while remarking that it does not support the Bill.
Congress leader Sachin Sawant, who had filed an RTI application in this regard, alleged on Tuesday the state government had tried to scuttle the information to avoid “public embarrassment”. He said, “I had filed an RTI in October. But was denied information twice. Official information was shared only after RTI commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad stepped in and issued directives in this regard.”
“Even when the Bill was passed, the Congress had reasoned that it did not make economic sense. The Centre has only reiterated our demand that the state government must procure pulses and distribute them under the PDS,” he said.
Cong attacks Sena, BJP on NDA meet
Mumbai: The Congress on Tuesday took a dig at both the Shiv Sena and BJP over Uddhav Thackeray’s decision to attend the NDA meet in New Delhi on Monday. “It is not that long ago that Shiv Sena leaders were saying that those wanting to discuss Presidential polls should come to Matoshree. It is amusing to now see Thackeray himself travel to Delhi for the meeting and even endorse Narendra Modi’s candidature for the PM’s race for the 2019 Lok Sabha poll,” said Congress leader Sachin Sawant. He added, “In the build-up to the BMC polls, BJP MP Kirit Somaiya had claimed to have evidence against Thackeray. One wonders whether these documents have been used for buying peace with the Sena.”