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A parliamentary panel has slammed the low number of convictions of foodgrain hoarders in the past three years and said it shows the non-serious approach of states towards curbing black-marketing of essential items.

According to the parliamentary standing committee on consumer affairs, food and public distribution, the number of people convicted as compared to the number of people prosecuted under the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, and the Prevention of Blackmarketing and Maintanance of Supplies Act, 1980, was only 127 out of 5,131 cases in 2009, 161 out of 4,539 cases in 2010 and a mere 30 out of 4,486 cases in 2011.

“This reflects the non-serious approach of the states and union territories…The committee is not satisfied with the performance of the states with regard to proper enforcement of the provisions of the two acts,” said the panel.

The panel said that the number of raids conducted, people arrested, prosecuted and convicted as well as the value of goods confiscated during 2009, 2010 and 2011 were negligible.

The committee asked the central government to impress upon states to enforce the provisions of the two acts more vigorously and conduct more raids in order to curb malpractices and hoarding.

“Such action would also prevent rise in prices of essential commodities due to artificial scarcity of goods created by traders through hoarding and black marketing,” said the panel.

According to the committee, the number of people arrested and the value of goods confiscated was 9,012 and Rs.188 crore in 2009; 10,906 and Rs.105 crore in 2010; and 4,498 and Rs.71 crore in 2011.

Despite the standing orders issued by the central government to all states and union territores to submit monthly reports indicating action taken against hoarders within seven days of the date of approval of detention orders, only six states – Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh – had furnished such information in the past three years, the panel said.

The committee asked the central government to monitor the implementation of the two acts more stringently.

The ministry was criticised by the panel for not being able to apprise it of the reasons why the states failed to report detention of hoarders and why the central government could not take any action against the defaulting states.

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