India

Rajya Sabha removes cereals, oils, onion and potato from ‘essential commodities’ list

New Delhi: Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament of India has passed a Bill to remove cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes from the list of essential commodities. The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, which was approved by the Lower House on September 15, was approved by a voice vote in Rajya Sabha.

The Bill allows the government of India to regulate the supply of certain food items only under extraordinary circumstances such as war and famine. It will replace the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 which was promulgated in June this year, reports said.

Replying to a discussion on the Bill, Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Danve Raosaheb Dadarao dubbed it legislation which will promote local for the vocal initiative.

He said this legislation has been brought for the farmers due to the COVID pandemic situation and subsequent lockdown, which created problems in the demand and supply chain. “This bill will provide assistance in food production and create a storage system”, he added.

“The bill is also aimed at removing fears of private investors of excessive regulatory interference in their business operations.  The freedom to produce, hold, move, distribute and supply will lead to harnessing of economies of scale and attract private sector/foreign direct investment into the agriculture sector,” the government had said earlier.

Replying to a short debate, Dadarao said the stock limit conditions imposed through the law were hindering investment in the agriculture infrastructure.

“The amendments to the six-and-half-decade law provide that stock holding limit on commodities will only be imposed under exceptional circumstances like national calamities, famine with a surge in prices,” the Minister said. The processors and value chain participants are also exempted from the stock limit.

The Minister said the move will boost agricultural investment and will also create more storage capacities to reduce the post-harvest loss of crops. “This amendment is in favour of both farmers and consumers,” Dadarao added.

According to him, the changes in the 1955 law are an important step by the government of India to achieve its target of doubling farmers’ income and also for ease of doing business.

“The essential commodities act was brought when the country was not self-sufficient in food grains production. But now the situation has changed, therefore the amendment was required,” he said.

“Farmers suffer huge losses when there are bumper harvests, especially of perishable commodities,” he added.

Earlier in the day, many opposition members had staged a walkout from the House demanding that the suspension of eight members be revoked.

 

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