Prothom Alo illustration

Recently commerce minister Tipu Munshi said, the standard of living of 40 million people in Bangladesh is equal to that of Europe. The minister meant the people have the ability to purchase daily essentials even if the prices have increased. But the honourable minister did not say what is the standard of living of the 40 million or more people of low-income category currently.

One need not go far to find these low-income people. They can be found in the long queue in front of the TCB trucks that are selling daily essentials. After a hiatus of almost one and a half years TCB has started to sell four daily essentials to lower income people at a rate lower than the market price. This initiative has been taken with the aid of subsidies to provide commodities to lower income people.

According to a 15 November report in Prothom Alo, TCB sold products in 30 places at Dhaka on the first day. Each truck catering to 300 people, took a maximum of three hours. While visiting Karwan Bazar, Farmgate, Mohammadpur Bus stand and discussing with seven dealers over cellphone, it was learnt that the trucks reached the designated spots with TCB products by 9:30 to 11:00 in the morning. It takes around three hours to sell these products. In some places it took only around one and a half hours.

A customer can buy two kg of lentils, potatoes and onions and two litres of soybean oil from the TCB truck. Onions are being sold at Tk 50, potatoes at Tk 30 and lentils at Tk 70 per kg. Soybean oil will be available for Tk 100 per litre. Onion is sold at Tk 100 and potato at Tk 50 per kg respectively in the open market. TCB announced the sale of four products but potato and onion were not available in most of the places.

This initiative of TCB is good in the context of rising prices of daily necessities in the market. But the question is, the products sold in TCB's trucks at 30 places in the city of Dhaka, inhabited by 15 million people, are very insignificant compared to the demand. TCB Chairman Ariful Hasan said that through this programme 1.3 million cardholding families along with 2,00,000 more people in Dhaka will get subsidized products.

TCB's products are being sold in trucks only in Dhaka. In that case, the poor and low-income people outside Dhaka will be deprived of this benefit. There is no reason to think that all those people living outside Dhaka are financially well off. As a result, it is necessary to start selling TCB products through trucks all over the country. Where it is not possible to sell products by trucks, arrangements should be made to sell products through alternative methods.

The commerce minister remarked that unscrupulous circles are taking extra advantage to destabilise the market. But no action has been against them. Therefore, besides increasing the sale of TCB products in trucks, effective action rather than public show should be taken against unscrupulous gangs or syndicates. In that case the sufferings of the poor and low-income people will be alleviated somewhat.