Though the Centre has asked states to crack down on speculators and hoarders to check spiraling price of onion, state governments could do little as the commodity is not under the purview of the Essential Commodities Act, a senior government official said. When asked if the Centre is mulling placing onion back in the list of items covered under the Essential Commodity Act, Thomas said "No plan to include onion in this category."

The state governments have "other powers and influence" to crack down on hoarders and speculators, he added. Onion, a politically sensitive commodity, in 2004 was deleted from the list of items covered under the Essential Commodities Act following satisfactory production and stable price trend. Earlier, there were 130 commodities under the Act.

Gradually, the government reduced the number of items in the list to seven. The list now includes items like drugs, fertilizer and food stuffs including edible oil, and petroleum and petroleum products. The Essential Commodities Act was enacted to ensure easy availability of essential commodities to consumers and to protect them from exploitation by unscrupulous traders.


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