SILCHAR, Dec 24: The Centre and the State Government seem to have lost control over the food market allowing free run for traders, profiteers and hoarders to rule the roost. Food inflation, according to official sources, has shot up to 20 per cent. Rising prices of essential food items, vegetables, cereals, pulses, grains, oil, sugar and wheat show no sign of respite.
On an annual basis, potato prices have zoomed around 136 per cent and pulses have became costlier by over 40 per cent. Onion prices rose to 15.4 per cent. Other food items which became dearer include wheat 14 per cent, milk 13.6 per cent, rice 12.7 per cent and fruits 11 per cent. Manufactured products rose to 4.78 per cent from 1.34 per cent in October. Prices of fish, chicken and mutton also continue to maintain a steady rise.
If the ruling party has no concern, the opposition parties –– BJP, CPIM, CPI, AGP and AUDF are equally unmoved except organizing symbolic protest demonstrations or submitting memoranda to the district authorities. Even on this burning issue, opposition parties have not initiated any move for joint and co-ordinated public agitation to put pressure on the State administration for adopting effective measures to regulate the market and provide relief to the people.
Winter is the season of abundance and supposed to bring down prices of vegetables but there is very little change in the prices of green vegetables in the central markets of Fatak Bazar, Rangirkhari, Tarapur and Sadarghat along with the prices of fruits, fish, chicken and mutton. Potato remains dearer at Rs 24 a kg, onion Rs 25, cauliflower Rs 30, brinjal Rs 25, tomato Rs 30 and peas at Rs 40.
The price of fruits is also high with apples being sold at Rs 110 a kg and grapes at Rs 170 per kg. Even the seasonal orange is costlier as one has to pay Rs 20 for four. Local fish varieties, big and small, ranges from Rs 250 to Rs 400 per kg. UP and Andhra Pradesh fish is being sold at Rs 130 per kg. Chicken, boiler and local, costs between Rs 90 and Rs 120 per kg. The unchecked inflation and zero level of protest have left people with no option then to ask when will they get relief from the rising cost of living.
Dilip Paul, an important functionary of Silchar Foodgrain Merchants’ Association squarely blamed the Centre for price rise due to its wrong policies. Withdrawal of the Essential Commodities Act, according to him, has provided enough leeway to capitalists and hoarders to reap benefits of speculative markets and exploit the consumers. Besides, he said, stress on industrialization is leading to shrinkage of agriculture land, underminig the fact that 70 per cent people of the country are agriculturists. This is causing shortfall in the production of food grains, cereals, pulses and vegetables, pushing up prices against rising demand.
Joydeep Biswas, senior lecturer in economics of a local college, attributed the phenomenon of escalating prices to globalization and liberal economy as well as misplaced priority of the government of India. The much hyped green revolution, he pointed out, ignored production of pulses which has remained stagnant between 14 to 16 million metric tons during the last 50 years. Rice production, he further said, has been 19 per cent less then the last rabi crop.
Biswas at the same time blamed the Union Agriculture Ministry for making the import of two million metric tons of rice public which, he said, is only encouraging “speculative marketing” by wholesalers and stockists to push up prices. During the last three months, price of rice has gone up by Rs three. Rainfall deficit this year has been 23 per cent less which has further added to a short fall in agricultural production.
Besides, he pointed out, PDS has been marred by corruption. The situation of price rise will continue to be grim unless the Centre and the State, instead of blaming each other, jointly plan to control the ever rising cost of living, Biswas opined.THE SENTINEL