ESSENTIAL COMMODITIES – OVERPRICING IN INDIA
The sudden rise in the prices of grocery items has become a serious concern across India now. Many poor households, particularly daily wage-earners, are experiencing extremely tough times when they have no sources of income in this lockdown period. What is very unfortunate is that many retail outlets have been taking the “undue advantage” of the situation. I was shocked to note that the ordinary pulse (or lentil) is being sold in a certain state in India 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 now Rs 50/- to 55/- from the gullible customers. Some of the shopkeepers 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 brand) in a certain state is now being sold at Rs 1400/- to 1500/- per sack while it was sold in the range of Rs 800 to Rs 1000/- before lockdown. These days such sacks come in 30/25 kg in variant brands.
Given the increasing transportation and other incidental expenses in the lockdown, 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% sudden price hike in essential food-grains in most of the states in the country. This must be opposed tooth and nail.
One strongly feels that the Government concerned authorities should take the immediate step towards the exorbitant price-rise. 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, 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 have been working with dedication by distributing free ration or cooked meals to satisfy the hunger of the marginalized needy. Many NGOs like RSS, ABVP, AOL, ISKCON, Sikh Organizations, NYDHEE and others have been distributing relief materials to the weaker section which is extremely inspirational. But, our generous philanthropists and the NGOs cannot reach each one of them every morning and evening.
It has been reported that countless daily wage-earners and poor migrant workers/laborers 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.