Govt unveils steps to check inflation; to act against hoarders

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New Delhi, Jan 13 (PTI) Promising to crack down on blackmarketeers and hoarders, the government today unveiledmeasures to check spiralling prices by deciding to continueban on exports of edible oils, pulses and non-basmati rice andasked states to waive local taxes on essential commodities.

After two days of discussions at the highest level,chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh -- on a day weeklyfood inflation showed some moderation -- the governmentconstituted an inter-ministerial group under Chief EconomicAdvisor Kaushik Basu to review the overall inflation withparticular reference to primary food articles.

Admitting that food prices have frequently risen at"unacceptable rates", a statement issued by Prime Minister''smedia advisor said that the "current bout of inflation isdriven by rise in prices of vegetables and fruits which ismore difficult to manage because they are not held in publicstocks."

Attributing the rise in prices, especially the onion, dueto late rains, the government said that fast growth of theeconomy, combined with the effect of several inclusivenessprogrammes, put greater income in the hands of the relativelypoor whose food consumption increased. This led to rise inprices of milk, eggs, meat and fish.

On measures that it proposes to take, the government saidit would take stringent action against hoarders and blackmarketeers manipulating market prices to ensure products reachmarkets in time to moderate prices.

"Cartelisation by large traders will be strictly dealtwith. The States will be requested to ensure that such actionis effectively taken under the Essential Commodities Act,1955, and the Competition Act, 2002," the statement said.

It said that import and export of all essentialcommodities would be reviewed on a regular basis. Thegovernment will "impose controls on exports and easerestrictions on imports, including tariff reduction wherenecessary, to improve domestic supplies," it said.

The food inflation, measured by wholesale prices, forthe week ended January 1, 2011, moderated slightly but wasstill ruling high at 16.91 per cent. .

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