Published: 20th March 2021
What the FAQ: What is the Essential Commodities Act, why is it being amended?
Here, we try to answer some of the most important questions related to the Essential Commodities Act and its amendment
A Parliamentary Panel has asked the government to implement in "letter and spirit" the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act — one of the laws against which farmers are protesting at Delhi borders for over a hundred days now. This panel also has members from opposition parties including Congress, TMC and AAP. These parties have been demanding the repeal of all three farm laws enacted by the Centre recently.
Here's what the Essential Commodities Act entails, what the amendment is and every other detail related to it.
What is the Essential Commodities Act?
Ans: The Essential Commodities Act (ECA) is an act of the Parliament of India that was established to ensure the delivery of certain commodities or products, the supply of which, if obstructed due to hoarding or black marketing, would affect the normal life of the people. This includes food, drugs, fuel (petroleum products) etc. This act was modified by the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 as part of the 2020 Indian farm reforms. The ECA was enacted in 1955 and has since been used by the Government to regulate the production, supply, and distribution of a whole host of commodities that it declares ‘essential’ to make them available to consumers at fair prices. Additionally, the government can also fix the minimum support price (MSP) of any packaged product that it declares an “essential commodity”.
What is the amendment?
Ans: Sources at the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution said that the ordinance has introduced a new subsection (1A) in Section 3 of The Essential Commodities Act, 1955. The amended law provides a mechanism for the “regulation” of agricultural foodstuffs, namely cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, potato, and supplies under extraordinary circumstances. These circumstances include extraordinary price rise, war, famine, and natural calamity of a severe nature.
What is the definition of an essential commodity?
Ans: There is no specific definition of essential commodities in The EC Act. Section 2(A) of the act states that an “essential commodity” means a commodity specified in the “Schedule” of this Act. At present, the “Schedule” contains nine commodities — drugs; fertilisers, whether inorganic, organic or mixed; foodstuffs, including edible oils; hank yarn made wholly from cotton; petroleum and petroleum products; raw jute and jute textiles; seeds of food-crops and seeds of fruits and vegetables, seeds of cattle fodder, jute seed, cottonseed; face masks; and hand sanitisers. The latest items added to this schedule are face masks and hand sanitisers, which were declared essential commodities with effect from March 13, 2020, in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.