Clashes were reported from parts of east, northeast and south Delhi on Friday over rumours of shortage of salt and shopkeepers selling the commodity at exorbitant rates. Panic buying of salt was reported from neighbouring Noida and Ghaziabad over similar rumours.
Over 50 local residents took out a protest march from Jasola to Shaheen Bagh in southeast Delhi on Friday at 9.30pm. They were protesting against shopkeepers who were allegedly selling salt at over ₹100 per kg.
Locals told HT that a bus was stopped on the main road and a scuffle broke out between the bus driver and the protesters.
“The driver manhandled a local. This angered the rest of them and they started pelting stones on the bus. Other vehicles were also vandalised. The police reached the spot soon and brought the situation under control. Some policemen were injured in the incident,” said Parvez Yusuf, a resident of Abul Fazal Enclave.
A senior police officer said, “Force was deployed to disperse the crowd.”
A local grocery store owner in Shaheen Bagh said he did not get supply of salt since Thursday.
“Some people came to buy salt. I told them I had none. They got angry and went away. Next thing I heard was that locals were protesting over salt. The problem is majority of shops in Jasola and Shaheen Bagh have no salt since the currency exchange scheme kicked in,” said Firoz Jamaal, a shopkeeper in Shaheen Bagh.
Scuffles also took place in some east and northeast Delhi areas when shopowners refused to sell salt in bulk. Some were forced to down their shutters.
Rumours about salt prices hitting ₹200-300 per kilogram spread thick and fast in Ghaziabad, Noida and other parts of UP on Friday evening, after which panic stricken residents rushed to buy packets.
The rumours first spread at Dasna and Kaila Bhatta in Ghaziabad. “I sent my son to buy two packets of salt as there were rumors . The local shopkeeper charged ₹30 per packet which he earlier charged ₹18,” said Jannat Khatoon, a Dasna resident.
Two persons were detained at Loni and five others at Khoda late Friday night. “We have instructed police to make announcements in their respective areas. The sub divisional magistrates have been alerted and we will take action against rumour mongers,” said Nidhi Kesarwani, Ghaziabad DM.
Panic buying was also reported in Noida. Rohit Singh, a grocer in Sector 12, said he sold as much table salt in two hours on Friday evening as he would sell in five to six months. “I sold 10 bags of salt this evening. Each bag contains 50 packets. I have exhausted my salt stock but even then customers are asking for it,” he said.
Another grocer in Mamura market said that it all started with a WhatsApp message. “There was a message that there is a shortage of Tata salt. But there is plenty of salt manufactured by other companies as well. There is no need to panic,” said Sushil Aggarwal, a trader at Mamura.
Aggarwal said the maximum retail price of a packet of one kg of salt is Rs 18 and there were reports that it was being sold at Rs 50-Rs 60. The wholesale price of a bag of salt containing 50 packs is Rs 760 which was sold between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,200.
Manish Sisodia, the Delhi Deputy Chief Minister, also urged people of Delhi not to believe on the rumours.
“There is no shortage of salt in Delhi. Teams of SDMs and Food Supply Officers are patrolling. Salt is available everywhere. No cause for panic,” Sisodia tweeted.
Delhi Food and Supplies Minister Imran Hussain also held an urgent meeting at his residence following the rumours.