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Government conducts raids at over 532 Delhi locations to check hoarding

The initiative is aimed at controlling spiralling food prices and increase supplies of vegetables, especially onions and potatoes.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jun 20, 2014, 03.47 AM IST
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The initiative is aimed at controlling spiralling food prices and increase supplies of vegetables.
The initiative is aimed at controlling spiralling food prices and increase supplies of vegetables.
NEW DELHI: A day after the Delhi government scrambled to increase supplies of vegetables, especially onions and potatoes, to control spiraling food prices, raids were conducted at more than 532 spots in the capital against alleged hoarders and 42 traders prosecuted.

The department of food and supplies conducted raids across all major mandis and markets in a major drive against hoarders of essential commodities, especially onions and potatoes. These are expected to continue.

“We have conducted raids on 532 premises so far and the raids will continue till late evening,” said SS Yadav, food and supplies commissioner, Delhi government. “Our teams prosecuted 42 traders for violation of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, and the Legal Metrology Act, 2009,” he said.

Violators face imprisonment of up to seven years if convicted, said officials. Raids were conducted at Azadpur Mandi, Narela Anaj Mandi, Okhla Mandi, Gazipur, Keshopur Mandi, RK Puram and elswhere.

On Thursday, lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung again held meetings with state officials to discuss the measures to be adopted to control prices and increase the availability of vegetables in the market. Jung has directed the development commissioner to start the sale of onions at 200 different locations across the city from Friday, said Delhi government officials. Earlier, the government instructed the Delhi Agriculture Marketing Board to issue daily advertisements in newspapers of prices and locations where onions and potatoes are being sold at government mobile vans.

The state government has asked the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED) under the ministry of agriculture to purchase onions on behalf of the state government. It has also been asked to explore buying potatoes for the capital. In addition, 380 Safal retail outlets across Delhi have been instructed to double stocks and sales of onions and potatoes. The government is set to issue a notification deregulating the marketing of perishable commodities, such as fruits and vegetables, under the Delhi Agriculture Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act.

This will allow farmers to sell through the Agriculture Produce Market Committee or directly on the open market. Authorities expect the move to help control prices by reducing the influence of middlemen, who are often accused of driving up prices in the retail market but underpaying farmers.

The central consumer affairs department has been approached by the Delhi government to issue control orders under the Essential Commodities Act, prescribing stock limits of essential commodities, so that hoarding could be prevented and checked in the city.

Meanwhile, welcoming the decision to allow farmers to bypass commission agents, Ashok Gulati, professor of international economic relations at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, said since 2003 when the model APMC Act was put in place, they had been asking the governments to implement it. "For zero work and zero risk a trader in Azadpur Mandi gets 6% official commission which unofficially goes to even 10% for trading vegetables.

Worse is that the fate of farmers’ agriculture produce is decided in a few minutes depending on the whims and fancies of a few traders," he said. According to him, the change in the APMC Act could usher in a more efficient market mechanism. Farmers will get better prices and consumers will pay less, he said.

 
Traders in Azadpur, Keshopur and Gazipur didn’t seem to be perturbed. They said the relationship between farmers and traders was very strong and that they were unlikely to be affected by the steps. Also, most farmers had taken loans from them. "We feel that retailers increase the prices of vegetables and fruits. The government should take action against them.

We are selling potatoes in the mandi for Rs 14 a kg and it is the retailer who sells it for Rs 25 a kg,” said Surinder Kohli, an Azadpur trader. On Thursday, the onion prices in Asia’s biggest market yard was Rs 9-14 a kg. Among other vegetables, bitter gourd was priced at Rs 5 a kg, bottle gourd Rs 5, cucumber Rs 8 and okra Rs 15.

Another fruit trader in Azadpur mandi said the revenue to the marketing board will fall drastically with the implementation of the deregulation move. "I give Rs 5 lakh annually to the government as mandi tax. If my business drops, then the government will also see a loss."

Street vendor Ranjit Singh in East Delhi’s Mayur Vihar area said that he didn't foresee any major correction in prices. "The Safal store is 1 km from where I hawk my produce. Locals prefer to buy from me rather than travelling that distance.”

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