Government puts masks and hand sanitisers under Essential Commodities Act

Paper: II

For Prelims: Essential Commodities Act.

For Mains: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Context of News:

  • In the wake of rising numbers of patients infected with covid-19, government recently declared face masks and hand sanitizers as essential commodities for the next 100 days as it stepped up efforts to boost supply and prevent hoarding of these items in its fight to check spread of coronavirus disease.

About Essential Commodities Act:

  • Essential Commodities are defined as “Goods considered essential to. Maintain a minimum acceptable standard of living”34. The Essential Commodities Act, 1955,. gives an all-inclusive definition which “means and includes any commodity in the list provided in in the schedule to Section 2(a)”35.
  • Under the Essential Commodities Act, states can ask manufacturers to enhance their production capacity of these items, to make the supply chain smooth, while under the Legal Metrology Act, which is also in force, the states can ensure sale of both at maximum retail price (MRP).
  • An offender under the EC Act may be punished with imprisonment of up to seven years or fine, or both, and under the Prevention of Black-marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980, he can be detained for up to six months.
  • Major thrust in Essential Commodities Act:
  • The EC Act was established to ensure the delivery of certain commodities or products, the supply of which, if obstructed owing to hoarding or black-marketing, would affect the normal life of people. This includes foodstuffs, drugs, fuels (petroleum products).
  • The Act itself does not lay out rules and regulations but allows the states to issue control orders related to dealer licensing, regulate stock limits, and restrict movement of goods and requirements of compulsory purchases under a levy system.

Arguments for ECA:

  • Ensuring adequate supply:
  • Given the rising needs and commodities importance, government take decision to bring certain product in essential commodities list to ensure round-the-clock supply requires adequate build-up of stocks during the season.
  • Without the ECA the common man would be at the mercy of opportunistic traders and shopkeepers.
  • Tackling shortages:
  • There can be genuine shortages triggered by weather-related disruptions or disruption in generating product, which leads to prices going up.
  • It may not always be possible to differentiate between genuine stock build-up and speculative hoarding but act on hording should be done to stop malpractices in trade ,which disrupts essential product in the market.

Arguments against ECA:

  • An archaic law:
  • Essential Commodities Act has been in existence since 1955, when the economy was very different from what it is today. It was an economy ravaged by famine and food shortages.
  • Difference between storage and hoarding: 
  • There is distinction between storage and hoarding.
  • As compared to older times, when the economy experiences acute shortages, today many shortage cases are actually that of hoarding.
  • Stock limits led to price volatility: 
  • To control soaring prices of products over the last few years, centre through ECA imposed stock limits on different products. Instead of decreasing prices, this actually increased price volatility.
  • Although the restrictions on retail and wholesale traders are meant to prevent hoarding and enhance supply in the market. But, on the contrary, there are actually an increase in price volatility and a widening wedge between wholesale and retail prices.
  • Lower stock limit led traders and wholesalers to immediately offload most of the crop, which led to a sharp increase in the volatility.
  • With too-frequent stock limits, traders may have no reason to invest in better storage infrastructure in the long run.
  • Also, food processing industries need to maintain large stocks to run their operations smoothly. Stock limits curtail their operations. In such a situation, large scale private investments are unlikely to flow into food processing and cold storage facilities.

Reasons for this Move:

  • The government pointed out that masks and hand sanitizers are either not available in the market or are available with great difficulty at exorbitant prices, in view of the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19.By bringing masks and sanitizers government is trying to develop a shock observing strategy, in case covid-19 gets out of the control.
  • Masks of (2ply & 3 ply surgical masks, N95 masks) and hand sanitisers have been brought under Essential Commodities Act, 1955, empowering States to regulate production, distribution and prices of these items and also crackdown on hoarding and black-marketing.
  • The decision would empower the government and States/UTs to regulate production, quality and distribution of masks and hand sanitizers for smooth sale and availability of these items. It also empowers to carry out operations against speculators and those involved in over pricing and black marketing.

Way Forward:

  • The Essential Commodities Act, which has proven a disincentive to large investment in agricultural technology and infrastructure, has come as relief in this sector. This decision will stop malpractices in trade, which in most cases end up exploitation of consumers by traders.
  • Bringing certain product under ambit of essential commodities act is mere precautionary measure. What is need of an hour is up gradation and aggressive planning towards covid -19.
  • The coronavirus outbreak has made it clear that when instant reaction is required, public hospitals hold the key; Medical reform is a charged issue in most countries. The policy recommendations in favour of marketisation of healthcare normally emphasise three major points:
  1. First, bend the curve of the health share in GDP.
  2. Second, foster competition to provide more efficient healthcare.
  3. Third, mobilise resources from private entities which will ensure the win-win outcome of reducing government intervention as well as relieving its financial burden.

 


India ranks second in Global Animal Protection Index 2020

Paper: II

For Prelims: Global Animal Protection Index.

For Mains: Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Context of News:

  • Recently,Animal Protection Index 2020 has been released by World Animal Protection highlighted that India is improving in the area of animal protection.
  • India gets the second rank in Global Animal Protection Index 2020. This Index was released by International animal welfare charity World Animal Protection.

About Global Animal Protection Index:

  • The objective of the Animal Protection Index (API) is to showcase what and how countries across the world are treating animals. Index aims to showcase where countries are doing well, and where they fall short on animal welfare policy and legislation.
  • The index ranks countries from A (being the highest score) to G (being the weakest score) according to their policy and legislation. India has attained a C ranking in the index. India was ranked along with Spain, Mexico, France and New Zealand. Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Austria are rated with the highest scores, which is encouraging.
  • World Animal Protection assessed the animal welfare policies and legislation of 50 countries and identified a worrying lack of adequate animal welfare laws.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA):

  • A person for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the largest animal rights organization in the world, with more than 6.5 million members and supporters. It was founded on 22 March 1980 and its Headquarters is at Norfolk, Virginia, United States.
  • PETA opposes specialism, a human-supremacist worldview, and focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time:
  1. In laboratories.
  2. In the food industry.
  3. In the clothing trade.
  4. In the entertainment industry.
  • PETA also work on a variety of other issues, including the cruel killing of rodents, birds, and other animals who are often considered “pests” as well as cruelty to domesticated animals.
  • PETA works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns

Missing Link from Global Animal Protection Index:

  • India’s ranking in Global Animal Protection Index is satisfactory .However; there is room for improvement in many domains related to animal welfare. For instance, animals used in scientific research are exempt from cruelty considerations in the Prevention of Animal Cruelty Act 1960.
  • Inadequate Regulatory Mechanism is another worrying point. There is a lack of regulations regarding the rearing of farm animals, notably with unregulated urban dairy systems developing quickly with very poor welfare standards.
  • India has strong laws on the protection of animals; however, the welfare of dairy animals is yet to part of any such law. Cows are considered to be sacred in India but millions of cows and buffaloes continue to suffer in cruel conditions every day in dairies within our cities.
  • Along with inadequate regulatory mechanism, what is worrisome is lack of enforcement of existing laws in letter and spirit. Due to negligence of law enforcement agencies, people don’t care about the basic rights of animal.

Way Forward:

  • The index will help countries to put in place good animal welfare practices such as keeping animals clean, healthy and with sufficient space to exhibit natural behaviours. There are strong laws to protect animals in almost every country. However, the laws are not as strict to protect dairy animals.
  • More countries need to follow best practices of ace countries in this ranking for World Animal Protection , calling all governments to immediately improve their animal welfare standards, not only for the benefit of animals but also to reduce the risk to public health.
  • Various researches reveals poor animal welfare practices, in the trade and farming of wild animals and livestock, which provides the perfect breeding ground for viruses to mutate and spread. If animal welfare laws aren’t improved, we face the risk of disease outbreaks becoming more frequent. This is just one of the ways that governments are failing to protect animals and people. This index is a good reminder of the work that still needs to done to protect every animal.