The difference between the prices of vegetables at wholesale and retail markets remained huge on Friday, sparking demand for government action against aggregators for jacking up the rates.
Several Patnaites were shocked to learn that the prices of select vegetables soared 18 times by the time they reached the city from the field of farmers. Some of them felt they were being cheated and sought action from the state government against the aggregators.
When The Telegraph informed Mainpura resident Ajit Kumar Singh (42) that the bottle gourd he bought for Rs 25 per kg was procured from farmers for just Rs 1.50 per kg, he lost words for a while.
“What are you saying? Is it true? You mean to say that we are paying Rs 25 for a product costing merely Rs 1.50? It is ridiculous. We are being cheated. Why the government is not taking action against the aggregators, who have made our life miserable?” asked Ajit at the East Boring Canal Road vegetable market.
He said: “I really did not have any idea that we are buying vegetables at such an inflated rate. I had the impression that we were paying Rs 3 to 5 extra. I cannot imagine in my wildest of dreams that I am paying Rs 18 to 22 extra”
The cry for action against the aggregators from several Patnaites like Ajit failed to impress the state government much. Food and consumer protection minister Shyam Rajak said: “My department does not deal with such issues. As far as cheating is concerned, consumers can approach the consumers’ court and can lodge their grievances. But they must be having the receipt of vegetables purchased.”
Giving receipts against purchased vegetables is not in practice in most of the retail markets in the city. Thus, moving the consumers’ court is almost a mission impossible for people.
The Telegraph in its July 6, 2012, edition reported how the middlemen controlled the supply chain of vegetables from fields to plates. The aggregators, a key cog in the supply chain, survive on margins after paying transportation costs and taking the produce to the wholesale markets in Patna.
Homemaker Shanti Devi (38), a resident of R-Block, expressed her anger over the huge differences in price in the wholesale markets and the retail markets because of the middlemen. “The aggregators are paying farmers peanuts. I think they are the biggest losers and we are a close second. The aggregators are fooling them (farmers) and us.”
She said: “If the middlemen are responsible for this situation, the government must intervene.”
Aiman Hashmi (22), a resident of Bailey Road and a student of Jamia Millia Islamia University, said: “My father asked me to purchase some vegetables. I cannot believe the rate of vegetables over here. I thought Patna is a smaller city than Delhi and so the prices would be less. But I was completely wrong. The middlemen are fleecing common people here.”