New Delhi: The Centre is making all out efforts to ensure that there is no shortage of essential commodities like food grains in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak in the country.

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution has taken measures to make sure that over 75 crore poor people, covered under the Public Distribution System (PDS), get six months’ ration at one go. This, officials hope, will ensure the availability of food grains to these people in difficult times as they will be able to withdraw half a year’s rations, or 30 kg of food grains per person.

Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, these households receive 5 kg food grains each person per month at a heavily subsidised price of Re 1 to Rs 3 per kg, through 5 lakh ration shops. The move came following reports of panic purchase of essential items by families in several parts of the country. There were reports of people stocking up grains due to the rise in corona cases.

The government has made it clear that there is no shortage of food grains in the country. “India has surplus food grains of 43.5 million tonne as of now, of which 27 million tonne is rice and 16 million tonne is wheat. Besides, it is estimated that the farmers will harvest a record 106 million tonnes of wheat this year,” said a senior government official.

Sources said the ministry’s move will not only prevent increase in food prices amid panic buying, but also ensure that rural families have enough ration to survive on, as day jobs may be hard to come in the near future because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The government has also included face masks and hand sanitisers on the list of essential commodities, and is in the process of including more items there. The Centre is closely monitoring the prices of soaps, floor cleaners and thermal scanners because of a surge in demand of these items in the wake of growing coronavirus cases. The prices of these products will be monitored from 114 centres across the country.

The Consumer Affairs Ministry keeps track of the prices of 22 essential commodities. However, the Ministry also included face masks and hand sanitizers under the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) keeping in mind the corona outbreak. The official said that strict action would be taken against those hoarding and black marketing these products.

He said the government may bring soaps, floor cleaners and thermal scanners also under the Essential Commodities Act if their prices shot up from the level which prevailed in the last six months. The government will monitor more products if prices go up substantially.

The 22 commodities which have been there in the ECA include food grains (rice, wheat, atta), pulses (gram, tur, urad, moong, masur), edible oils (groundnut oil, mustard oil, vanaspati, soya oil, sunflower oil, palm oil), vegetables (potato, onion, tomato) and other items (sugar, gur, milk, tea, salt).

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