Essential Commodities Act

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Essential Commodities Act
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An Act to provide, in the interests of the general public, for the control of the production, supply and distribution of, and trade and commerce in, certain commodities.
Citation Act No. 10 of 1955
Territorial extent The whole of India
Enacted by Parliament of India
Status: In force

The Essential Commodities Act is an act of Parliament of India which was established to ensure the delivery of certain commodities or products, the supply of which if obstructed owing to hoarding or blackmarketing would affect the normal life of the people. This includes foodstuff, drugs, fuel (petroleum products) etc.[1][2]

The ECA was enacted way back in 1955. It has since been used by the Government to regulate the production, supply and distribution of a whole host of commodities it declares ‘essential’ in order to make them available to consumers at fair prices.

The list of items under the Act include drugs, fertilisers, pulses and edible oils, and petroleum and petroleum products. The Centre can include new commodities as and when the need arises, and take them off the list once the situation improves.

Here’s how it works. If the Centre finds that a certain commodity is in short supply and its price is spiking, it can notify stock-holding limits on it for a specified period. The States act on this notification to specify limits and take steps to ensure that these are adhered to. Anybody trading or dealing in the commodity, be it wholesalers, retailers or even importers are prevented from stockpiling it beyond a certain quantity.

A State can, however, choose not to impose any restrictions. But once it does, traders have to immediately sell into the market any stocks held beyond the mandated quantity. This improves supplies and brings down prices. As not all shopkeepers and traders comply, State agencies conduct raids to get everyone to toe the line and the errant are punished. The excess stocks are auctioned or sold through fair price shops.

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