The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Flower mart withers in Trinamul weights war

It is the largest flower market in Calcutta, catering to the needs of customers from the city and suburbs. But Mullickghat flower market is being hit by the ripples created over the controversy over weights and measures.

Alleged musclemen of the Trinamul Congress are threatening the pandas — who for years supply weights and measures to the farmers selling flowers in the markets — to change the traditional ones. These musclemen allege that the weights and measures supplied by the pandas are faulty and the customers are being cheated.

The pandas, on the other hand, are vowing not to buckle under pressure. “We have been supplying these weights and measures to the farmers for generations and we know of no other,” asserted Akshay Panda, member of the Utkal Brahma Samaj, the organisation of flower mart pandas.

They alleged that a month ago, a few Trinamul men had ordered them to discard the old weights, made of bamboo. These musclemen formed the Phulbazar TMC Byabsayi Samiti and started holding meetings. “They were forcing us to use the weights and measures used in grocery shops. They said ours were faulty,” complained Rajesh Sainta, a panda. The pandas take Rs 2 to 3 from the farmers for each weight and measure. “But if we use the ones supplied by the Trinamul men, we will not make a profit and they might even get stolen,” Sainta said.

When the pandas refused to yield, the Trinamul men allegedly forced the farmers to buy the new ones for Rs 5 apiece. The matter was brought to the notice of North Port police station. “Our officers went to the market and asked the groups to resolve their differences amicably,” an officer at the police station said.

But, the pandas alleged, the musclemen returned last week and renewed their threats. “They have set a mid-January deadline for us to discard our old weights and measures,” one of the pandas said.

The market authorities are planning serious action against the Trinamul musclemen. “I have heard about this and asked MLA Tapas Ray to resolve the problem at the party level,” said Sudhanshu Sil, CPM Calcutta District Committee leader and chairman of Mullickghat Phulbazar Parichalan Samity.

“If this continues, we will take administrative action. Those traditionally supplying weights and measures to the flower mart will continue to do so,” Sil asserted.

According to Samity office-bearers, there are around 15 suppliers of weights and measures to the 200 stalls in the market. “We have received no complaints of irregularity from customers, so how can we stop the pandas from supplying these'” one of them asked.

“I have been using these tools for years and faced no problem. Why should we pay more unnecessarily'” asked Biplab Chakraborty, who brings his flowers from Ranaghat to sell them here.

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