|Residents buy onions at Anta Ghat on Thursday. Picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey
Police have taken up the responsibility to stop hoarding of onions in the absence of any step from the state food and consumer protection department.
On a day when the men in uniform raided a private godown in Poslan Road and confiscated more than 2,000 sacks of rice which had tags of the Bihar State Food Corporation (BSFC), minister Shyam Rajak said the food and consumer protection department was yet to find “any basis to raid against hoarding onion”.
With today’s catch yielding success, the police said they had their eyes on the businessmen involved in hoarding of different essential items. And, onion is their top priority as its price in Patna is hovering between Rs 90 and Rs 100 per kg at present.
“The police had a tip-off about the godown running illegally. Though no one has been arrested till late this afternoon, it seems that rice sacks belonging to the BSFC were stored here and then transported to other states. Some of the BSFC people might be involved in the illegal business, too. We are on the lookout for two persons — godown owner Mahavir Prasad and Manoj Kumar, who was running it. Prasad had given the godown to Manoj on rent. The police will arrest and book them under the Essential Commodities Act. Those involved in such kind of business are under our scanner,” Patna senior superintendent of police (SSP) Manu Maharaj said.
Sources in the police said they would keep a tab on onion hoarding although the job was not theirs. “It’s the responsibility of other agencies but the police are always ready to help. Onions are giving people sleepless nights these days. If the police receive information of hoarding, it will be shared with departments concerned,” another police officer, requesting anonymity, said.
However, Rajak said the state government had hardly any ground to carry out such raids. “According to the Essential Commodities Act, one can store only a definite amount of consumables like foodgrain etc. If it is not done, we conduct raids and confiscation follows. When it comes to onions, the Centre has not levied any control act on it. Under such circumstances, there is no basis on which the raids can be carried out. The state government does not have a way out to control the alleged hoarding of onions,” he said.
However, a senior Food Corporation of India official said hoarding could always be curbed. “Though I don’t want to comment on what the minister has said, any form of hoarding can be checked by the state government. The state has got the authority,” he said.
DIG (central range) Sunil Kumar said he would talk to the district magistrate regarding onion hoarding, if any. “This needs to be found out by the police. We will have a talk with the district magistrate to find out what options we have,” he said.
District magistrate N. Saravana Kumar was unavailable for comment till late this evening. On the other hand, onions were found to perform a vanishing act at the market. “I do not have it at present. We are finding it difficult to get onion as there are many wholesalers who do not have it either. I am told that I will get onion within two days. I am sure the rates will increase even more. The last time I bought it from the wholesale market, I got it for Rs 80 per kg,” a vegetable seller at Boring Road said.