Monday, November 3, 2014

Prices to be fixed


Unregulated fluctuation in prices of eatables in sweetshops and restaurants has now become a constant complaint among consumers in the capital. Prices of items vary from shop-to-shop and appear unattached to any rules or oversight. Most people believe that prices, since no one is forcing people to buy items if they find the price too high, cannot be regulated and some even feel that interference in market prices [for goods and items which are not “essential”] would be an undesirable practice. But it appears that when it comes to pricing of such items, there are rules for monitoring and control.
A kilogram of sweets that cost Rs. 350 on one day, could, especially in the recent Diwali rush, could jump to around Rs. 400 the next day. With no regulatory authority at present to monitor the prices, a plate of chicken momo, that cost just Rs. 60 earlier this year is now plating in the Rs. 100 to Rs. 120 range. Even the humble Samosa, already rather expensive at Rs. 10 has moved on to some more rupees at some places.
As mentioned, with no regulatory body in place to check such prices, unlike earlier when sweet-shops had to mandatorily put up price display boards, the Legal Metrology Unit and Consumer Protection unit of the Food & Civil Supplies Department, through a Gazette Notification issued on 24 October, has stepped up in favour of consumers and set up state and a district level committees for monitoring and regulation of prices of essential commodities, vegetables and other consumables in Sikkim.
The State Level committee which shall provide major policy initiatives, guidelines for regulation and movement of essential commodities, vegetables and other consumables and regularly monitor its activities to mitigate the problems of consumers in the State. The committee will be headed by the Minister, Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, as the Chairperson while the Gangtok Mayor and Secretaries of UD&HD, State Transport Authority, Buildings & Housing Department, and Animal Husbandry Department will be members of the committee. The committee will have the Secretary, FCS&CAD as the Member Secretary.
The state level Monitoring and Regulatory Committee will take all decisions regarding regulation activities related to mobilization, control of prices if essential commodities that are consumable in the state. The state level committee shall monitor and coordinate with the line departments and agencies on its progress, examine and evaluate the performance of the District Level Committee and all such related activities “as deemed fit in larger public interest”.
Further, the Committee shall recommend regulatory framework to the line departments, agencies and District Level Committee related to the matter.  
“The committee members have already held meetings to deliberate and decide on the implementation under the framework of the notification. We have already held preliminary meetings and many members have submitted their recommendations to the committee,” states Gangtok Deputy Mayor, Shakti Singh.
He further informs that the notification in itself will be a boon for the consumers in the state since instances of over-charging have been reported from all over Gangtok. “There are some restaurants selling tea from vending machines and pricing them at Rs. 30 when vending tea just costs a nominal Rs. 10 at most. We have to look into such discrepancies as establishments are pricing items on their whims and fancies,” states the Deputy Mayor.
He also adds that quantity and size could be the main criteria for fixing rates on consumable items since the central government has also notified items like potatoes as essential commodities now.
“Business establishments make a hue and cry when GMC raises the license fees by just a few rupees so when they raise prices indiscriminately they there should be no resentment towards the government if regulation comes in,” he adds.
Similarly, the District Level committee constituted for the purpose in east, West, North and South Sikkim located at the District Headquarters, Gangtok, Gyalshing, Mangan and Namchi respectively shall be responsible for implementation of the policies and decisions taken by the State Level committee and submit reports to the Chairman and Member Secretary on all such activities undertaken by the respective District level Committees which shall have the respective District Collectors as the chairpersons.
The respective SPs, Divisional Engineers, Building and Housing Department, Deputy Director, AH&VS, Bazaar Officer, UD&HD, RTO, Transport Department, Assistant Controller, Legal Metrology, FCS&CA department will be the members of the District Level Committee while the respective District Civil Supplies Officers, FCS&CA shall be the Member Secretary.
The district level committees will supervise all such activities relating to regulation and management of prices of essential commodities and other consumables in the district. The committee shall prepare a systematic concept and working plan for implementing the direction from time to time to meet the exigencies as per law established  and mobilize the resource for mitigating problems related to the subject. Further, the committee shall endeavor to make similar such bodies at sub- divisional, block and gram panchayat level in the respective districts and monitor, evaluate their performances at regular interval of time. The committee shall submit a detailed report on the status and arrangement made to the state level committee on monthly basis and daily during crisis or as may be directed by the state level committee.

It may also be informed that the Food and Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department shall be the Nodal Department and all official action on Price Regulation shall be governed by Law in operation through agencies delegated by the authority in the state.      

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