Even when wholesale prices of onion came down to Rs 37.50 per kg for the best quality, the essential ingredient of scores of Indian dishes was being sold at much higher retail rates ranging between Rs 65 and Rs 70 per kg.
"I saw on television that rates have come down but onions are still being sold at Rs 70 per kg in my area," complained K Ragini, a bank employee shopping at a retail store at Safdar Hashmi Road near Mandi House.
Between mandi rates to retail trade rates, there is always a wide gap.
Increasing transportation costs, thanks to hike in fuel prices, and handling and labour charges contribute in a big way to hike in retail price.
"Then there are these plush south Delhi colonies wherein shopkeepers add property rentals to the commodities price," said sources.
Another reason — but no one is ready to admit it on record — is the monthly bribe to traffic police. "There are restrictions on plying goods vehicles on several roads across the city. Traffic police stop small retailers while they take their goods from mandi to their respective areas. All these add up to the increased retail cost, apart from profit making motive," said a retailer from Daryaganj, wishing to remain anonymous.
But there is no way the government can check retailers' profiteering.
Said Jayashree Raghuraman, secretary, Delhi's food and supplies department: "Delhi government on its own cannot take action on retailers. Only if there is a central order under the Essential Commodities Act can we control retailers."
Central orders exist for food grains such as wheat, rice and sugar but not for any vegetables. But Raghuraman admitted, "There is no denying that in some areas retailers do exploit citizens. But we can really do nothing about it."