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November 1, 2013

WB CM seals Bengal borders to rein in veggie prices

WB CM seals Bengal borders to rein in veggie prices

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday ordered the sealing of Bengal borders to stop the movement of vegetables, onion and potato out of the state in a desperate step to curb prices. The CM also ordered a crackdown on potato retailers who sell above the government rate of Rs 13 a kilo.

Veggie prices are spiraling out of control in Bengal despite the state government setting up fair-price shops and threatening hoarders with prosecution. Brinjal is selling at Rs 80, onion at Rs 70 and tomato at Rs 60 in Kolkata. Capsicum and bean have climbed past the century mark. On Thursday afternoon, the CM called a meeting with agriculture minister Moloy Ghatak, agriculture marketing minister Arup Roy, horticulture minister Subrata Saha, chief secretary Sanjay Mitra, home secretary Basudeb Banerjee and Kolkata police commissioner Surajit Kar Purkayastha.

The CM said traders are diverting produce to flood-hit states for higher profits. Potato, for instance, is selling for Rs 50 a kilo in Bhubaneswar while it`s going for Rs 13 in Kolkata. The CM blamed middlemen for the sudden rise in veggie prices and warned of raids at the markets from Friday. “Trucks loaded with potatoes and vegetables will not be allowed to ply out of Bengal until the price stabilizes here,“ the CM said. 

MMiC-markets, Tarak Singh, said they will display the government approved MRP of vegetables in markets so that customers aren`t cheated.

Mamata warned that FIRs will be lodged against traders who do not sell potato at Rs 13 in the retail market and Rs 11 in the wholesale market. “The decision was taken jointly by the government and traders. Leaflets will be distributed in all markets with the signatures of traders` representatives and government officials,“ she said.

 Trinamool is not against traders, she said, pointing out that they were only party to walk out of the UPA-II government on the FDI issue to protect the interest of traders. “But we will take action against those who fleece the common man,“ she warned. “We do not control prices of agriproducts in individual markets. The sellers decide it. But we need to act tough because prices are rising as vegetables are not reaching the markets,“ Mamata said.

The fisheries department has started rearing fish in 350 tanks to control prices and reduce dependence on Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. “We have also started a hilsa research centre, which helps lower its price,“ the CM said. The government has started growing onion in Bankura to cut down its dependence on Nasik. “We have started growing 30,000 metric tonnes of onions and a third of it will be sent to the markets soon,“ she said.

The article was published in The Times of India on November 1, 2013