Rising prices of diesel combined with irregular plying of trucks due to heavy and unchecked ‘extortion’ demands, have forced an increase in prices of fruits, vegetables and other essential commodities, this Puja season.
The inflated rates have choked budgets and made it difficult for households to enter the festival with the usual fervour. Vegetable trader Vinay Kesri informs he had no doubt prices would rise further during Diwali and Chhath pujas just a few weeks away.
"This year, prices of all vegetables have gone up sharply. Older potato stock is being sold at just Rs. 16 but new potato stock has hit the budget of middle and lower middle class families with a selling price of Rs. 40 per kg," he added.
He said, not only potato but also prices of parwal, brinjal, ladyfinger, tomato, lemon, green chili and capsicum, etc, have already witnessed an increase ranging between Rs. 5 and Rs. 25 per kg.
Unlike in the past, potato, onion and small kaddu prices have given no relief to consumers this year. "The sudden spurt in demand of essential commodities and fruits have made these items unaffordable to large sections of lower middle and middle class families, aspiring to celebrate Durga Puja with pomp and gaiety this year," he stated.
Explaining the reasons behind the unprecedented price hike, Santosh Kumar, who runs a general store at Chowk, Patna City, said, "Rising diesel prices and irregular plying of trucks are the main reasons for the skyrocketing prices of vegetables, fruits and essential commodities. Prices of pure ghee and til oil have also hit the middle and lower class families hard." Kumar said, under the circumstances, the shortages have compelled an increase in rates.
"Rate of foodgrains has increased marginally but vegetables are now out of reach of the middle class families. On Friday, prices of parwal and bitter gourd had touched a high of R25 to R30 per kg. "Yet, we are not surprised. It happens every year during the festive season," sellers say, though they admit, "It was never this high". Sneha Singh, a housewife, was not surprised by the sudden increase in the rates of fruits and other essential commodities.
She said, "I have noticed that between September and December, prices of almost all items increase every year. Some shopkeepers deliberately increase prices in the hope of making a quick buck in the black market. The local administration never takes action against them. I am sure, one day people will come onto the streets demanding action against opportunist businessmen."