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Centre tells states to punish those hoarding, black marketing essentials during lockdown

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Locals throng a grocery store after PM Modi’s announcement of 21 days of lockdown in wake of coronavirus, in Patna | PTI
Locals throng a Patna grocery store after PM Modi’s 24 March announcement of a 21-day lockdown to contain Covid-19 | Representational image | PTI


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New Delhi: The Centre has asked the states and the union territories to invoke a stringent law to punish those indulging in hoarding and black marketing of essential commodities, saying such acts can’t be ruled out due to the loss of production and labour crisis in the wake of the nationwide lockdown.

In a communication to chief secretaries of all states and union territories, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), under the Disaster Management Act, has allowed manufacture or production, transport and other related supply-chain activities in respect of essential goods like foodstuff, medicines and medical equipment during the 21-day lockdown.

However, there are reports of loss of production due to various factors, especially because of the reduction in labour supply.

“In this situation, the possibility of inventory building/hoarding and black marketing, profiteering, and speculative trading, and the resulting price rise of essential goods cannot be ruled out,” he said.

Bhalla asked the state governments and the UT administrations to take urgent steps to ensure availability of these essential goods, by invoking provisions of the Essential Commodities (EC) Act, 1955.

These measures include fixing of stock limits, capping of prices, enhancing production, inspection of accounts of dealers and other such actions, he said.

“Offences under EC Act are criminal offences and may result in imprisonment of 7 years or fine or both.


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“State/Union Territory Governments may also consider detention of offenders under the Prevention of Black-marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980,” Bhalla said..

The home secretary said the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, is authorising the states and the union territories to notify orders under the EC Act, 1955 by relaxing the requirement or prior concurrence of the central government up to June 30, 2020.

“I would urge you to personally take urgent steps to ensure availability of these commodities at fair prices for public at large,” he said.

The country-wide lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 in a bid to combat the coronavirus threat.


Also read: 20 men, 1 bucket and a Dettol soap cut in two — life in quarantine for UP migrant labourers


 

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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay


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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


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‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


 

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