Maggi ban: Ram Vilas Paswan confident about Rs 640-crore lawsuit against Nestle
Food and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan is confident about his ministry’s Rs 640-crore class action suit filed against Nestlé.
In an interview with ET, Paswan also said prices of onions and lentils would soon be controlled and consumers would not face food inflation as sugar, potato and tomato prices have fallen, while there is no chance of a spike in wheat and rice prices.
He blamed Arvind Kejriwal’s government in Delhi for the recent surge in onion prices and said that the local administration has not moved sternly against hoarding unlike last year when city authorities conducted numerous raids and imposed restrictions on trade. Paswan said consumer interest was uppermost in his mind, whether it was the price of onions, cooking oil, lentils, or the issue of action against Nestlé although the central government does not want to create panic in the market. He said the government had a very strong case against the maker of Maggi noodles.
“We are confident about our case and hence went to the consumer court on the Maggi issue. Initially we had given reference to the law ministry and not filed a complaint. The law ministry said we should go ahead and we should take advice from the additional solicitor general. Only after five meetings with the solicitor general we filed the suit,” he says.
The minister said the Bombay High Court’s verdict, which asks for more tests on Maggi noodles, would not weaken the class action suit case filed in National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. He said no company can get away with selling a product without necessary approvals.
“We will not unnecessarily create panic in the market or give wrong signals, but consumer interest will not be compromised in the Modi government,” he said. Paswan said the Delhi chief minister should have sternly dealt with hoarders. “This time, with all the awareness that prices will firm, state governments have not shown interest in buying onions or putting stock limit. The Delhi government should have controlled onion prices as panic start from the national capital only to the rest of the country,” he said, adding that if now prices are falling, that could have happened earlier too.
“The Delhi government can keep saying that they don’t have police under their control, but they have all the authority to deal with hoarders. There is no demand-supply imbalance in the market, but prices are rising. They can’t take credit for the fall in prices and blame the Centre when prices rise,” he said.
Paswan said the state government in Delhi was inefficient. The Centre has sent letters suggesting measures to crack down on hoarders, but no action was taken. “Everyone knew that these months (July-September) are crucial for onion prices. Way back in July I had held meeting with state ministers and officials and advised on stock limit,” he said.
The minister said the crop in the market was not less as exports was less and production was only 5 lakh tonnes less than the previous year. The passage of Goods and Service Tax was another thing which Paswan said can control prices.
To control price rise of pulses, the Centre has stated that it would provide states a subsidy of Rs 10 per kg on imported tur dal. Tur dal is being imported at Rs 77 per kg and the Centre will make it available to states at Rs 67 a kg. The dal is expected to start reaching India from September 1 and the total 5,000 tonnes will arrive by September 15. The Centre also plans to import 5,000 tonnes of urad dal.