The Consumer Affairs Ministry has asked Delhi Police to investigate the activities of one YouTube channel Agriworld, which has about 3,000 subscribers, in detail and take appropriate action under law alleging that the Mumbai-based social media platform’s price forecast may lead to unscrupulous speculation and hoarding of pulses.

In a letter addressed to the Delhi Police Commissioner, the ministry’s deputy director Rajiv Kumar has said “It has come to the notice of this Department that Amit Shukla of Agriworld, Mumbai has been indulging in the dissemination of speculative information about pulses market and prices through social media and youtube channel.”

Pulse Speculation

Expressing concern over the activities of Shukla, Kumar further said in his complaint that the speculative prices for pulses disseminated by Agriworld are “potentially responsible for unscrupulous speculation and hoarding by market players to create artificial shortage and price rise.”

Sources said that the ministry has also shared with Delhi Police copies of Agriworld’s recent messages circulated through WhatsApp. Defending the action, ministry officials said that as the Department of Consumer Affairs monitors the prices of essential food commodities with the objective of maintaining price stability and ensuring availability and affordability to consumers, the action will help contain speculative activities of others.

“It is more of a message to others amid the ongoing elections as the government cannot afford to allow further price rise of pulses which are already at very high levels,” said an industry expert. However, he said that unless the fundamentals are strong, with supplies bolstered particularly when domestic productions are hit, administrative decisions may work for a few weeks and it cannot be a permanent solution.

“I am directed to immediately request you to kindly get the activities of Agriworld investigated in detail, take appropriate action under law as deemed fit and send the report to this Department at the earliest,” Kumar said in the letter dated March 22.

When contacted, Shukla said that he has been doing research for the last 24 years and sharing the reports with some 2000-odd subscribers. He wondered how a viewership of 300-800 per video on youtube can be responsible for speculation. The Agriworld channel was opened in January 2019 and it has uploaded 152 videos which have a combined viewership of 101,439 views.

“There are several other people/firms distributing such research reports to a large number of clients. I failed to understand why and how my name has surfaced. No one has so far contacted me,” Shukla said and added that he was not sure about the genuineness of the document.

According to Consumer Affairs Ministry data as on March 22, the all India average retail price of gram dal was ₹84.11/kg (up by 16 per cent y-o-y), tur dal ₹149.11/kg (up 31 per cent), urad dal ₹124.09/kg (up 16 per cent), moong dal ₹117.43/kg (up 12 per cent) and masoor dal ₹93.66/kg (up by 1 per cent).