Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Minister chairs Price Monitoring committee meeting, calls for wider collaborations to regulate prices

Gangtok, 04 Aug [IPR]: Minister for Food, Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs, NK Subba, chaired the first meeting of the Price Monitoring & Regulating Committee here in the capital today. The meeting, organised by the Legal Metrology Unit and Consumer Protection Cell of the FCS&CA Department, was also attended by the Zilla Adhayakshas and Upadhayakshas, Gangtok Deputy Mayor, Secretaries of the Government of Sikkim, District Collectors, Managing Directors of SIMFED and Denzong Agriculture Cooperative Society, officers from various government departments, President of Federation of Consumer Association Mrs. Jayashree Pradhan, representatives from STCS, NABARD, NERAMAC and IOCL, and officers from the Legal Metrology Unit.
The meeting saw detailed deliberation on issues concerning prices of essential commodities, vegetables and other consumables, ways and means to monitor and regulate them, and factors that act as constraints in the process, avoidance of intermediaries/ middlemen in the production-supply chain, prevent hoarding of commodities, ways and means to enhance supply, and enhanced role of district level authorities in price monitoring and regulation.
The meeting was individually addressed by representatives from each of the concerned departments, District Collector (East), representatives from organisations such as SIMFED, DACS, NABARD, IOCL, NERAMAC and president of Federation of Consumer Association.
In his address, Minister Mr. Subba stressed that laws and rules alone do not ensure price monitoring and regulation. He maintained that the concerned departments and stakeholders have to collectively take responsibility to create enough awareness about pricing and consumer rights so that there is transparency in the market. He laid emphasis on creating a strong monitoring system to ensure quality of essential commodities, vegetables and other consumer goods and services.
Acknowledging constraints like inadequate storage facilities, unethical practices like sub-letting of trade licences and delay and discrepancy in service delivery of essential goods like LPG, the Minister informed that the department is making visible efforts to eradicate these bottlenecks. He reiterated that the onus also rests on line departments to collaborate and create a systematic approach in this direction.
He appealed to the Labour Department to carry out proper verification of individuals before issuing labour licences for trade to avoid duplication and unethical practices. The Minister informed that space would be created for outlets and storage facilities for organisations like SIMFED and DACS in the premises of Kanchenjunga Shopping Complex.
In the meanwhile, the Minister took the opportunity to congratulate the Chief Minister and the officers and concerned stakeholders for the special mention received by the State in the field of Organic Farming from the Prime Minister of India in his address in Nepal. He added that such recognition calls for enhanced level of dedication from all concerned departments and the public at large to sustain the progress that Sikkim has made in organic farming. “It is a matter of great prestige, but at the same time it is a huge challenge to the State to live up to the expectations of the global community,” he stressed.
The Minister also informed that the Government will strictly ensure that only organic produce is kept in the upcoming Kisan Bazars. He called on the Agriculture department and other concerned departments to devise strict monitoring systems to avoid illegal entry of inorganic produce in the Kisan Bazars. He further added that farmers practicing organic farming should be paid the actual amount for their produce and the department should refrain from discouraging the farmers by reducing/regulating the prices.
He called for proper verification of these products in the testing laboratories established by the Government to differentiate between organic and other products. The Minister also mentioned about a recent directive of the Chief Minister to create adequate space for storage and outlets for Self Help Groups to keep their organic produce, and assured of positive outcomes in near future.
The Minister also made a mention about the recent introduction of the SMS system for booking and refilling of LPG cylinder in the State, and called for support and cooperation from the Panchayati Raj Institutions to take the message to the rural population. The Minister informed that the Government will make efforts to enhance the level of awareness about consumer rights through awareness programmes.
The Minister also called for implementation of the National Food Security Act on priority and appealed to the panchayat representatives/local authorities to create a systematic mechanism of selecting beneficiaries.
Earlier, Secreatray Food & Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department, DP Sharma, gave a brief report on the functioning of the Committee and informed that the premise for today';s meeting was provided by the National Conference of State Ministers of Food & Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs Department which was held on 04 July 2014 at New Delhi under the Chairmanship of Arun Jaitley. He informed that the Conference which was attended by Minister for FCS&CA Mr. N.K. Subba, provided a platform to draw up an action plan to take specific preventive measures to arrest price rise particularly of vegetables, pulses and other food items of common consumption. Mr. Sharma also highlighted some of the salient points discussed in the Conference.
The Secretary informed that the Legal Metrology and Consumer Protection Cell of the Department has been working in the areas of checking over prising, weights and measures, packaging, expiry dates and cash memos, with the help of district administration, police, commercial tax and NGOs. He further informed about the establishment/existence of a State Consumer Helpline that has been setup at Tashiling Annexe II Gangtok which receives consumer related complaints of various natures relating to price structure, weights and measures, etc. In addition to this the Government has also setup the State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission in the State and District Consumer Redressal Forum in the districts, he informed. He also informed about a recent Government notification which constituted a State Level Committee and District Level Committee for monitoring and regulation of price of essential commodities, vegetables and other consumables in the state.

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