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First day pinch on prices
- Hoarding fears despite above-normal supply

Calcutta, Aug. 21: The indefinite truckers’ strike began today with prices nudging up in the markets and rumours of traders hoarding food products anticipating a shortage in the next few days.

The truckers have called the strike demanding a reduction in service charges and motor vehicles tax and to protest against an increase in fuel prices. They are also objecting to the state government’s decision to scrap old vehicles.

Though no major impact was felt in the city markets today, the rising prices were a pointer to a sharp escalation if the strike is not called off.

“At the moment, we are not short of supplies but we cannot rule out a major price hike in the coming days,” said Bishu Das, a vegetable vendor of Lake market.

Sakaldeep Das, a green grocer of Maniktala market, said supply was normal. “There is no effect of the strike as yet but it may make a difference if goods do not arrive in the city tomorrow,” he said.

Vendors at Lake market and Gariahat market are keeping a watch on the situation. “While price of onions and ginger has gone up by a considerable margin, that of potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and green chillies has marginally increased,” said Manik Porel, a green grocer of Gariahat.

Noor Islam, a munshi (manager of a wholesale market who takes stock of arriving commodities) of Koley market in Sealdah, said: “We have received more supply in comparison to other days. The trucks that entered the city late transferred their goods on to smaller vehicles and tempos so that we received the same by noon. Prices will remain the same at least for the next two days.”

Officers of Muchipara police station kept an eye on the number of vehicles that arrived at the wholesale market at Sealdah.

Policemen across the city are keeping watch on other wholesale markets in Burrabazar, Posta and Kidderpore. “We have deployed our men in all markets so that traders cannot hoard essential commodities by taking advantage of the strike,” a policeman said.

Raja Roy, general secretary of the Calcutta Goods Transport Association, claimed the strike is absolute. He made it clear that none of the trucks that arrived will leave the city.

“The trucks that entered the city this morning unloaded the goods at the wholesale markets but commodities could not be despatched to the neighbouring districts,” he said.

“Ten thousand trucks enter the city every day with supply of essential commodities but on Saturday, there were at least 6,000 more (to bring in more supply). The vehicles, however, will not be loaded till the strike is over. We have not received any intimation from either the Centre or the state government. We will continue till they respond to our demands,” he added.

State government officials said they are keeping a close watch on the situation and if it so demands, they would intervene.

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