Lentil imports under scanner to check black marketing


File photo: PTI

The import of pulses has come under the scanner of central intelligence agencies to check any black marketing and cartelisation to jack up the prices of the commodity.

The officials of Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) have alerted the field formation to the possibility of such illegal activities by traders and hoarders, official sources said today.

About 5.5 million tonnes of pulses were imported last fiscal, largely through private traders. The move comes as the prices of pulses have continued to soar and reached Rs 200 per kg in retail. Various central agencies and the Income Tax department have been conducting raids across the country for some time to check hoarding.

So far, 14,000 raids have been conducted and over 1.33 lakh tonnes of pulses seized in past few months, the sources said.

The rise in prices of pulses is due to demand-supply gap. As per an estimate, the demand is of 230-240 lakh tonnes whereas the supply is about 170 lakh tonnes.

With each passing year, there is an increase in demand of pulses by one million tonnes, thus making imports necessary. The possibility of black marketing and illegal trading cannot be wished away as hoarders try to exploit the situation to make profit, they said.

The intelligence agencies have been asked to coordinate among themselves and share actionable inputs to check any wrongdoing, the sources said.

The Centre has also decided to send its officers to select countries to decide on “government to government contract” to import pulses by limiting the role of private traders. It has also decided to raise a buffer stock of eight lakh tonnes to check price rise, they said.

State governments have also been asked to check hoarders and those involved in black marketing of the commodity. States like Tamil Nadu and Gujarat are proactive against the hoarders. All other states need to do more to check it, the sources said.

Intelligence agencies have zeroed in on traders involved in hoarding in some states including Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and action is being taken against them, sources said.

The intelligence agencies have found hoarding of pulses by traders of one state in another illegally to avoid detection. “It is a new modus operandi. Traders are hoarding pulses in godowns in neighbouring states to dodge the authorities. We are taking action in these cases,” a source said.