By Salil Gewali
The sudden rise in prices of grocery items has become a serious concern across the country. Many poor households, particularly daily wage-earners, are experiencing very tough times when they have no sources of income in this lockdown period. What is very unfortunate is that many retailers have been taking the “undue advantage” of the situation. I was shocked to note that the ordinary arhar pulse/DAL is being sold in a certain state at Rs 120/- or Rs 130/- per kg while it should not be more than Rs 100/-. Before the lockdown it was even sold at Rs 90/- per kg. Similarly, the retail price of sugar should not exceed Rs 45/- per kg but many stores are charging Rs 50/- to 55/- from the gullible customers. Some of the retail outlets are selling the potatoes at Rs 35/- instead of it Rs 25/- per kg, while some ripped off the unsuspecting buyers by selling at Rs 45/- when there was panic-buying during the early phase of the lockdown relaxation. It has also come to the notice that rice (ordinary LAI brand) in a certain state is now being sold at Rs 1400/- to 1500/- per packet/sack while it was sold in the range of Rs 800 to Rs 1000/- before lockdown. These days such packets (or small sacks) come in 30/25 kg in variant brands.
Given the increasing transportation and other incidental expenses, the variation of Rs 2 to Rs 3 or sometimes Rs 5/- per kg is agreeable but not the huge gap as the profit margin. By and large, there is about 25% to 40% price hike in essential food-grains in most of the states in the country. This must be opposed tooth and nail.
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I strongly feel that the Government concerned authorities should take the immediate step towards the exorbitant price-rises. The respective state governments across the nation should make it mandatory for each retailer to paste the correct price-list of the essential grocery items on the broad visible to the customers. One believes, the humanitarian support and empathy shown towards the needy and the poor, who are without any earning sources, is more meaningful now than ever before. The arbitrary pricing should be checked by taking the stern measures in this lockdown period.
Of course, it is very heartening that many NGOs are working with dedication by distributing free ration or cooked meals to satisfy the hunger of the needy. But our generous philanthropists cannot reach each one of them every morning and every evening. It has been reported that countless daily wage-earners and poor migrant workers in the cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore have been experiencing extremely hard times fixing their even one-time meals. Many feel “shy” to disclose the privacy of their kitchens. So, all NGOs, all charity organizations, all religious institutions should come together to put pressure upon the government machinery to control the price of essential food items. Streamlining the Fair Price Ration distribution system, which is fraught with various leakages, is equally crucial. Filling the empty stomach of the poor and the underprivileged is the biggest concern and also the duty of each right-thinking citizen in this unprecedented lockdown and economic hardship.
An India-based writer and researcher, Salil Gewali is best known for his research-based work entitled ‘Great minds on India’ which has earned worldwide appreciations. Translated into Twelve languages, his book has been prefaced by a world-acclaimed NASA Chief scientist – Dr. Kamlesh Lulla of Houston, USA.
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