The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed the Essential Commodities(Amendment) Bill 2020.
The Bill, which was approved by the lower house on September 15, was approved by a voice vote in Rajya Sabha. The bill replaces an ordinance promulgated in June.
Regulation of food items
The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 empowers the central government to designate certain commodities such as food items, fertilizers, etc. as essential commodities and regulate its production, supply, distribution, trade, and commerce, for securing their 'equitable distribution' and 'availability at fair prices'.
The Bill provides that the Central Government may regulate the supply of certain food items including cereals, pulses, potatoes, onions, edible oilseeds, and oils. This power can be exercised only under "extraordinary circumstances" like (i) war, (ii) famine, (iii) extraordinary price rise and (iv) natural calamity of grave nature.
The Bill requires that the imposition of any stock limit on agricultural produce must be based on price rise.
A stock limit may be imposed only if there is:
- 100% increase in retail price of horticultural produce;
- 50% increase in the retail price of non-perishable agricultural food items.
The increase will be calculated over the price prevailing immediately preceding twelve months, or the average retail price of the last five years, whichever is lower.