The price hike in seasonal green vegetables and particularly onions have taken a toll on the common man's pocket. The prices of vegetables have shot up, some even rising by 100% in the past two months.
While the retail price of onion has climbed to Rs. 60 a kg, that of seasonal vegetables like gourd, beans and brinjal are scaling newer heights with each passing day.
At present, the retail prices of most seasonal vegetables range between Rs. 60 to 80 per kg, while that of capsicum, cauliflower and carrots have already touched Rs. 100 per kg.
No vegetable except bitter gourd (karelas) and potatoes is available less than Rs. 60 per kg in the retail markets.
The situation is such that the retail prices vary from shop to shop and worst affected are the people living either in the periphery of Hamirpur town or in the villages. In villages, there is no check on rates and people are openly fleeced by traders.
With prices of vegetables going beyond the reach of the common man, especially poor and middle class people, they have switched over to potatoes and soybean products as their daily food.
Potatoes imported from Punjab mandis are being sold between Rs. 14 and Rs. 18 per kg in retail. Their wholesale rate as per the market committee report is around Rs. 940 to Rs. 1,200 per quintal.
The rates of "desi" potatoes which are procured from Lahaul and Spiti are quoted around Rs. 25 per kg in retail and Rs. 1,200 to Rs. 2,000 per quintal in wholesale.
Though the Hamirpur district market committee releases the daily rates to the people through media, there is no check on the rates of traders by the department of food and supplies that is mainly responsible for maintaining the price line in their jurisdiction.
The department allows 20% margin of profit to the retailers on the sale of vegetables and fruits. However, a random check on the rates supplied by the market committee shows that the margin of profit charged by the retailers is more than 50% to 60%.
Sunita Sharma of Anu said, "It has become difficult to run the kitchen." Wife of a serving solider, who stitches clothes to run her family, said, "I have brought down purchase of vegetables by 60%. I prefer to cook potatoes and "moong" and "chana" dal that are within my budget. There is no question of buying peas, tomatoes and cauliflower."
She blamed the authorities concerned for their inept handling of the situation and thereby harming the cause of poor. She said it was shocking to say that once known as one of cheapest markets of vegetables in the state, Hamirpur had now become costliest markets of the state.
Another housewife Rameshwari Devi of Hamirpur town asked the district officers to visit the markets to buy vegetables and other foodgrains. "Since they don't go to markets and every item comes to their house through their servants, they don't know the exact situation," she added.
Surinder Bedi, one of the leading retailers of Gandhi Chowk area of the town, said, "It has become difficult to sell the items on 20% margins as vegetables are perishable items. The margin should be increased."
Sushil Sharma, president of the Hamirpur district consumers' sangh, said strict action should be taken against persons not displaying price lists in front of their shops.
A random visit to various shops of the town shows that price lists are not being displayed. Those displaying the lists too sell the items more that the prices printed or written on the list.
Meanwhile, upset with the growing complaints of the people and sharp criticism of the state government in the HP Vidhan Sabha, Hamirpur deputy commissioner Ashish Singhmar has directed the food and supplies authorities to conduct surprise checks and book the defaulters under the law of land. He said no one trying to fleece the consumers would be spared and action would be taken against him/her under the law of land.