GUWAHATI: Ahead of the 14-day lockdown in Kamrup Metro district from Sunday midnight, retail prices of vegetables skyrocketed in the city’s markets as hapless consumers were left with no option but to procure more stock than usual to last at least a week.
The district administration has pledged to impose a stricter lockdown than the one imposed last March, with all shops, barring pharmacies, closed for at least a week, before the nature of the remaining seven days of the lockdown is decided next Friday.
As it is, the usual pre-lockdown, panic-driven rush in markets and department stores was witnessed for a good part of Sunday, even as people were held hostage to soaring prices of vegetables.
Long queues, at the cost of social distancing norms and COVID safety protocols, were also seen in front of wholesale godowns in the commercial hub of Fancy Bazar on Sunday morning.
Apparently, an artificial scarcity of potatoes was noticed since Friday afternoon itself, with a section of unscrupulous traders taking advantage of the situation and hiking rates at will. Potatoes were sold for a whopping Rs 60 per kg on Sunday as against Rs 25 before the lockdown announcement was made.
“Onions too have been sold for Rs 60 a kg today as against Rs 30 a few days back. What’s worse is that the rates of most vegetables have abruptly doubled or even trebled. Tomatoes sold for Rs 120 per kg as against a pre-lockdown price of Rs 50 to 60, ridged gourd for Rs 70 as against Rs 30 and beans for Rs 160 per kg as against Rs 100 per kg earlier,” said a consumer at the Uzan Bazar market here.
When asked about the sudden spike in rates, a seller put the onus on the wholesalers, alleging that a sack (containing 50kg) was procured for Rs 2000 without a cash memo from the wholesale market. There were others who blamed low supply for the price rise.
Wholesalers however begged to differ, saying that they were only charging market rates that fluctuate with diesel prices and weather.
“The wholesale rates of potatoes (Bengal) have been kept at Rs 25 per kg today and onions between Rs 18 and Rs 24 per kilogram. So, we have not resorted to any black marketeering,” said a trader at a godown in Lokhra.
Many vented their ire on the food and civil supply department with some alleging that the authorities of the department were least concerned about the spike in prices and artificial scarcity being created in the market.
“It is a shame indeed. How can marginalised sections stock up vegetables at such high rates. I fail to fathom why the department is looking the other way when the common man is being made to suffer like this,” another consumer at the Bamunimadam railway market, rued.
Source: The Shillong Times