ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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GUJARAT-Oil Lobby in Action

Oil Lobby in Action EVER since the new Congress (I) ministry in Gujarat took over in June it has been under pressure to declare itself and take sides on the groundnut oil issue. The price of groundnut oil is the mercury, as the cliche has it, in the barometer of a government's well-being in the state. Not because groundnut oil is the cooking medium of the poorer classes who often find palm oil or soyabean oil much cheaper. It is essential in the diets of the urban middle-classes. The price is decided in triangular manoeuvres by the farmers, some of whom are organised into producers and marketing co-operatives, oil millers and the oil trade. Successive governments have had to umpire these manoeuvres to, ensure that prices in the market are politically acceptable or had to face the kind of urban unrest that led to the Nav Nirman movement of 1975, Rising prices, at the time the new government came to office, of all commodities including edible oils made it imperative that Solanki decide and decide quickly whether his government was going to continue the previous Janata regime's open market policy and purchases to fill the public distribution pipeline or impose levies at some point in the production and distribution cycle. In early July knowledgeable reports from Gandhinagar suggested that a levy either compulsory or voluntary (and voluntary levies are achieved only after some selective arm-twisting, as we shall see) was on the cards. The State Civil Supplies Minister let it be known that a policy would be announced by the end of the month. At the end of July there was no policy but the Chief Minister was already making 'categorical' statements to opposition party leaders that there would be no levy on groundnut oil. By the end of September, with scarcely a month to go before the new season's crop in Gujarat came on the market, that policy still eludes Solanki. But, between the beginning of July and the end of September various developments have taken place that make it unnecessary for the government to do anything more than sign on the dotted line of the 'contract' present to it by the oil lobbies, A 'short-term policy to bring down prices', applying only to the last season's stocks of oil, was announced in early July. This was a dealers' regulation order that required all dealers to furnish prior information to the government on sale and distribution of edible oil outside the state and to obtain acknowledg-

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