I-T Department Is Going After People Hoarding Onions, Says Centre

Onion prices have gone up substantially in the last few weeks.

New Delhi: Giving an insight as to how unscrupulous traders were while exploiting rising onion prices by hoarding stocks, Union minister Anurag Thakur on Monday stated in the Lok Sabha that Income Tax authorities were conducting an extensive survey on the matter in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi.

The minister stated that the I-T department in its survey across the three states found traders to be indulging in various malpractices ranging from manipulation of prices to cash transactions which led to generation of unaccounted income.

Thakur was quoted as saying that “a preliminary outcome of such operations revealed that most of these traders were indulging in various malpractices which included suppression of turnover, having unaccounted stock, manipulation of books of accounts, cash sales, violation of the provisions related restriction on cash transactions.”

Speaking in the backdrop of a sharp increase in onion prices across the country, which have not only cross the Rs 100 per kg mark in many areas but also remained very high for a long period of time this year, the minister of state for finance and corporate affairs said whenever credible information was received about violation of any provision of the Income Tax Act, the department takes necessary action.

A few days back, several political parties had also raised the issue of the Centre failing to curb a sharp increase in onion prices, and policies leading to speculation in the commodity.

In the Lok Sabha, the Congress and Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) last week raised the issue of “rising prices of onion and other vegetables throughout the country” by giving notice of adjournment motion.

Several MPs accused the Centre of being responsible for the onion crisis, saying it favoured hoarders and not farmers.

Also read: The Onion Price Rise is Linked to North Pakistan’s Unusually Warm Weather

A number of Congress women MPs charged that the climb in onion prices has upset family budgets and impacted the poor and middle class families the most.

Talking to the media then, many of them had also spoken about the reasons behind the onion shortage.

One of them, Amee Yajnik, said while the country produced 2.3 million tonnes of onion in 1981, the quantity increased nearly 10 fold to 23 millions in 2017. But now, she said, “We find that we use almost about 23 to 24 million tonnes of onions in the country.”

Along with the increase in demand, she said, “the issue here is that Consortium of Indian Farmers Association or Competition Commission of India have said that farmers are getting only Rs 8 to Rs 9 per kg for onions, which they grow.”

Noting how the selling price has been allowed to cross Rs 100 in the retail markets, Yajnik said this clearly shows that the Centre “failed utterly” in this matter.

She charged that the Narendra Modi government had neither a short-term policy nor a long-term policy for onion, and it only wanted to “make it a political issue so that all other issues are forgotten”.

Across the country, various political parties have also been carrying out protests to highlight the issue.

In Odisha, Congress leaders recently protested on the issue in Bhubaneswar. In Lucknow, the party leaders came out on the streets and sold onions at Rs 40 per kg as a mark of protest.

In Delhi, Congress leaders led by state unit head Subhash Chopra held protests while wearing garlands of onion around their neck.

Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel too wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week on the issue.