Sales of commodities at low price should begin immediately

In the face of rising prices of essential commodities, commerce minister Tipu Munshi has assured that 10 million impoverished families will be provided onions, oil, lentils, sugar, dates and chickpeas at affordable prices through TCB during the holy month of Ramadan. He said the prime minister had directed to bring 10 million people under this scheme. “We are officially trying to provide them with onions, oil, lentils, sugar and other such items at affordable prices ahead of Ramadan.”

There are doubts on how much the minister's promise will assure the people of limited incomes who have been hit hard by the price crisis. First, there are five more weeks to go before Ramadan begins. How will the ‘impoverished people' manage to run the family during these five weeks?

He did not say anything about the staple food rice. The maximum portion of the income of the low-income people is spent on rice. If they can't buy rice because of the high price, then the situation will not improve even if other items are given at a lower price.

Second, the effectiveness of the initiative promised by the commerce minister has been called into question. Taking advantage of the plight of the poor, many selfish and influential people try to gain profits. The Covid-19 pandemic was no exception. Many affluent people instead of real needy people were included in the government list made to provide assistance. That is why the list had to be revised several times.

The extent to which rising commodity prices have stricken the low-income people can be gauged by long queues in front of vehicles selling TCB products. Earlier, only poor people used to stand in queue for TCB products. Now well-dressed people are also compelled to stand in the line for purchasing goods at low price.

Although the income of the people did not increase during the Covid-19 period, the prices of daily essentials increased at a significant rate. Authorities have been blaming the international market for the hike in edible oil price. But it is important to look at how much the price has gone up in international market, and how much it has gone up in the domestic market.

The rule of market is if there is more supply, the price goes down, and if there is less supply, the price goes up. According to the ministers, there is plenty of rice in the market and in government warehouses. So why is the price of rice rising?

The reason behind this is the manipulation of mill owners and stockists. Although ministers occasionally raise their voices against this manipulation, no action is taken against any perpetrators. As a result, the prices of essential commodities continue to rise.

In this situation, the government should increase its supervision over the market. Legal action should be taken against the unscrupulous traders who are increasing the prices of goods at an unusual rate. Apart from this, instead of waiting till Ramadan to help the impoverished and low-income people, arrangements should be made to sell daily essentials including rice at low prices, not only in the capital and divisional cities, but also in remote areas. The government must ensure that no influential person or group can snatch the rights of the poor.