There is a surge in the prices of vegetables in the markets of the city, and traders partially attribute the price demon that is about to ruin the festive spirit to the subscriptions that the transporters are forced to pay as they take the produce from the farms in the districts to the city markets. Durga may have left for her abode in Mount Kailash, but the festive season has more to come with Lakshmi Puja and Diwali round the corner, and the vegetable prices may not shown any southward movement in the near future.
Trucks are also stopped by the police at various points on the plea that they have to restrict the movement of these commercial vehicles in the city to avoid traffic snarls.
A member of the task force set up by chief minister Mamata Banerjee to check price rise of vegetables had to make more than 200 calls — two dozen of them to the director general of police Surajit Kar Purakayastha — to ensure release of trucks held up for subscriptions.
“I had to make more than 200 telephone calls to the police and plead with them to ensure release of trucks carrying vegetables that were stopped at various points. I’d to ring up even the DGP as many at least 25 times to keep the trucks on the move. I told him I was ashamed to bother him so often, but he understood our plight and helped us,” Kamal Dey, working vice-president of All-Bengal Grocers’ Vendors’ Association and a member of the task force, told HT.
The humble brinjal, which was selling for Rs 20-25/kg before the festive season arrived, is now going at anywhere between Rs60 and Rs80/kg.
The price of beans has shot up to between Rs120 and Rs150/kg, while tomato and drum sticks (borboti) are selling at between Rs40-50/kg and Rs120/kg (Rs70-75 a month ago). Capsicum tht was retailing at Rs50-55-kg has gone up to Rs100.
The prices of cabbage, radish, carrot and cauliflower (medium size) have swelled to Rs35/kg, Rs40/kg, between Rs40-50/kg and Rs50 per piece respectively.
Ladies finger that was selling at Rs 25/kg is now selling at Rs 40/kg.
“I expressed this apprehension during our last meeting with the chief minister. She was concerned and immediately told the police to take steps to prevent it. We deal with perishable items and any delay can cause 20%-40% loss of veggies, which in turn, leads to a rise in their retail prices,” Dey said.
Giving an example, Dey said it usually takes about three-four hours for a truck laden with vegetables to reach Kolkata from Bongaon, a distance of about 80 km.
However, since the onset of the festive season, these trucks were delayed by 10-12 hours due to frequent stoppages as local strongmen and club members who extorted subscriptions.
The plight is even more acute for trucks arriving from other states. Vegetable such as tomato and green peas, regularly consumed in Bengali households, are sourced from other states. Truckers ferrying these veggies have had to endure more stoppages during the festive season.
“Even humble households cook good food at home at this time of the year and there’s a huge demand for such vegetables as cauliflower and capsicum. Rising demand puts pressure on the prices anyway. Also a section of dishonest vendors exploit the situation to make a quick buck,” Dey added.
The forced subscriptions on top of these pressures. The retailers, too, come under a lot of pressure to cough up subscriptions.
“With puja committees cropping up every year, we’re being fleeced at every stop. We’re harassed for subscriptions as well,” said Prashanta Jana, a vegetable vendor at Narkeldanga market.