Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Monday cautioned that if prices of pulses, especially packaged ones, do not scale down, his ministry may not hesitate to invoke the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) to impose a limit on maximum retail price.
"We may invoke the Act if prices of packaged commodities do not come under control," he told reporters here.
Indicating that the central government may not take the figures provided by the states on face value, Paswan said it would enlist the services of an independent agency to collect information about the retail prices of essentials at the block, district and state levels.
"We will not depend wholly on information provide by the states at present," he said.
The ECA gives the government the power to impose limits on retail prices of 22 essential commodities including pulses.
Union Food Secretary Hem Pande said that the retail prices in various places for some commodities were still high even as the wholesale prices of pulses had come down.
For instance, arhar wholesale was selling at Rs 111 per kg but it is being sold at Rs 119 per kg, urad wholesale was Rs 122 per kg, but retail price is Rs 130 per kg, officials said.
Sources said the Food Minister would try to find out why there is "unprecedented gap" in wholesale and retail prices of 22 commodities under the ECA, such as sugar, milk, and edible oil.
Meanwhile, ahead of the coming festival season, the central government decided to increase the buffer stock of pulses to 20 lakh tonnes in order to control prices with market interventions if required.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave its nod to the proposal of the Department of Consumer Affairs.