Consumers groan as chaos hits markets, syndicates-middlemen-hoarders running the roost
BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, May 6: Prices of several essential commodities, especially lentils, have shot up over the last two weeks — burning holes in consumers’ wallets and throwing household budgets out of kilter. Adverse weather conditions affecting crops, poor groundwater level, rise in cost of fuel for running motors, low productivity, hoarding by wholesalers are some of the reasons cited for the price rise.
The prices of lentils have increase by 10 to 20 per cent in the last two weeks. On Wednesday, the price of black gram (mati/ urad dal) increased overnight by more than Rs 10, adding to the miseries of consumers.
There is little hope for fall in prices in the coming days.
There are several varieties of red lentil (masoor) – the current prices of the two best qualities (polished ones) are Rs 92 and Rs 100.
Arhar, the second most consumed dal in the country, is being sold at Rs 86. While Moong dal (yellow beans/gram) is being sold at Rs 100-Rs 110.
The price of onion has also risen from around Rs 16 a month back to Rs 28 as on date.
“Wholesalers say there is a shortage of production which is why the prices have gone up,” said Ratan Medhi, a retailer in the Ganeshguri area. “Even today I went to the Mahajan to get some stuff. The price of black gram has increased overnight by more than Rs 10,” he said.
More woes are awaiting consumers in the city with vegetable supplies from Kharupetia badly hit, where producers today staged demonstrations protesting harassment by middlemen. The producers also accused the Agriculture Marketing Board of extortion.
Already, the prices of almost all vegetables are hovering at around Rs 40 per kg. “If the vegetable supply stops, the prices will skyrocket. There would be a crisis in the market,” said a vegetable vendor.
A few retailers say that inflation combined with fuel price rise has contributed to the present situation. “The fuel price for transportation has increased and every time we have to bear the additiol cost. Not all increase in costs can be transferred to customers every week,” a retailer said.
Some shopkeepers also said that the government should check hoarding as the prices of commodities are increasing constantly without any reason.
“Before prices reach alarming levels, they should be monitored and regulated,” added the shopkeepers.
Recently, the Assam Chambers of Commerce blamed syndicates for rising prices and had charged the government for failing to put in place an effective mechanism to prevent it.
The district administration had earlier issued instructions to traders to put up the price list of essential commodities in their shops, but less than 10 per cent wholesalers and retailers follow the directive.
Consumers have also complained of differential pricing in the city.
“The costs of various commodities vary from market to market. It is a strange phenomenon which is peculiar to Guwahati. It shows the lack of government monitoring and control. The government has utterly failed to break the stranglehold of syndicates, unscrupulous businessmen and middlemen,” said a customer.
When inquired, Kamrup (Metro) Deputy Commissioner M Angamuthu told The Sentinel that teams of the district administration are conducting inspections at various places. “We are on the field and identifying any underlying short-supply of commodities. As of now, we are receiving sufficient quantities,” the DC said.
He said the present price rise is not a “uniform phenomenon”. “Nonetheless, we will verify and take action,” he added.