According to a special investigation by India Today, the dal crisis, which resulted in sky-rocketing prices of the staple, was more man-made than natural, with the real culprits being hoarders, and not unseasonal rains, as has been commonly held.

The investigation revealed that the prices of the major agricultural products of the country, including dal, are artificially and arbitrarily fixed by a cartel of big dealers. These dealers indulge in illegal futures trading, called satta, rather than at the official NCDEX Agricultural Commodity Exchange. They base their speculation on their inside knowledge of the artificial scarcity they have created.

As per the investigation team, the players have a well-thought-out system, whereby the status of crops are monitored across the major producing States, as is the import situation. When ‘loose points’ are identified — in other words, crops that are ‘weak’, and then they are tracked. Their prices are artificially raised, and imports are stalled. The cartel takes delivery of imports, but hoards them in foreign ports till the availability situation worsens, and then releases them at a high price, according to the modus operandi explained by a few unidentified cartel members to the investigation


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