November 6, 2013
Mamata Banerjee takes charge of Agricultural Marketing dept. to defuse potato crisis
West Bengal Chief Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee took additional charge of the Agricultural Marketing Department to see through the crisis of the potato price sky-rocketing in the local markets. On her way to the State Secretariat, she conducted surprise checks at Koley Market, College Street Market and Kalabagan Market to take stock of the situation.
A high-level meeting of the Task Force was held at Nabanna at 3 pm, following which the Chief Minister addressed the Press.
Excerpts from the Chief Minister`s speech:
We have visited Koley Market, College Street Market and some other places today. Other officers have also conducted surprise inspections at different markets. There are two reasons behind the unavailability of potatoes. Firstly, due to the recent festive season, labourers were unavailable. Secondly, some hoarders – or `Aratdars` – are creating an artificial shortage for their own monetary gains. Some of these people attended a meeting with the Government and promised that they will abide by the Govt. approved wholesale rate of potatoes, which was set at Rs. 11/kg. A copy of the joint appeal, signed by them is with us. But some of them did not keep their promises. Government is taking serious steps against them. Nobody should think that this Government is weak or that it is scared of those who are acting in such manner. We have surplus potatoes. Some people are not supplying these to the markets for the last 4-5 days. The Government will take every possible legal step against them. The Government will also cancel licenses of the offenders if necessary. There is no compensation for harassing common people. Those who have harassed common people must answer. From today onwards, I am personally taking charge of the Agricultural Marketing Department.
I have held meetings with all stakeholders for averting the crisis. One of our teams is visiting North Bengal. The decisions that were taken in the meeting include the opening of a 24-hour control room. Some of the suppliers are sending away potatoes to other states for more profit. Last year, when there was a surplus in potato production, resulting in rotting, the Government bought it for ICDS, mid day meal scheme etc. The State Government gave Rs 10 crore for exporting the surplus crop. This year, when there is a crisis, some of these people are still sending potatoes to other states, denying the people of West Bengal. I making a clear point on this, the potatoes cultivated in the State must be sold to the people of the State in the first place. If there is a surplus, then comes the question of exporting.
Before the Trinamool Govt. took over, farmers would get Rs 2 per kilo of potato. We fixed the price at Rs.8 per kilo. The price after processing and transport comes to Rs. 10.80; we fixed the price at Rs. 11/kg for wholesale market. We know the names of the people who have created this artificial shortage. Police will be escorting potato trucks. We are on the lookout for the godowns where potatoes have been hidden illegally.
The Government has taken all necessary actions to normalize the supply of potatoes from today evening. Mother Diary, Horticulture Dept., KMC, Agricultural Marketing Dept. will coordinate so that the supply of potatoes is normalized from tomorrow morning in the 46 KMC markets.
Potato seeds are imported to our state from Punjab. We wish to change this system to bring down costs. Our Government is opening shops to sell quality potato seeds at fair price from this year. All DMs, SPs, heads of WB Police, Commissioners of Police, Enforcement Branch, CID, OCs of local Police Stations, BDOs have been asked to keep an eye on the supply and price of potatoes in their respective areas. If cold-storages fail to supply, the Government will clear the stock of these storage houses. Government will buy potatoes; we will not allow hoarding of potatoes.
All I want to see is that common people are not being deprived. I apologize to the people of the state for the trouble they faced in the last few days, but please understand that a section of traders did not keep their words for selfish interests.