The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Idle wheels steer prices

The truckers’ strike took its toll on the Calcutta consumer’s pocket on Thursday, with prices of commodities spiralling in local markets.

As the countrywide, indefinite strike by truckers pressing for a 10-point charter of demands entered its fourth day, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee held a meeting with chief secretary S.N. Roy and home secretary A.K. Deb to review the situation. He asked them to maintain a “strict vigil” on the markets to “prevent hoarding and profiteering”.

A visit to a cross-section of markets in the city on Thursday found fish, eggs, mutton, onion, brinjal, parwal, fruits and mustard oil to be among the hardest hit by the supply slowdown. Fish and eggs are rolled in, in large quantities, from Andhra Pradesh, while onions mostly come in from Nasik. But with the truck wheels refusing to turn, the price tags on these items is rising rapidly.

Several trade bodies have cautioned local traders and stockists not to take any undue advantage of the truckers’ strike. “It is true that stocks of many essential items, like fish, egg, mustard oil, sugar and pulses, are expected to run out soon. But under no circumstances should any trader indulge in hoarding and profiteering. We appeal to our members and all other traders to sell the commodities at a fair price till stocks last,” said M.L. Khaitan, of the Joint Committee of West Bengal Trade Bodies.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty met leaders from the state goods transport associations, as well as eastern India representatives of the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), on Thursday and urged them to call off the strike in Bengal to ensure normal supply of essential commodities. The operators rejected the minister’s request, as the nationwide strike has been called by the parent body.

K.K. Bansal of the AIMTC, in fact, warned that things would only get worse in the coming days, with the talks in Delhi failing to break the deadlock and truck operators in Calcutta and its neighbourhood joining in the strike from Poila Vaisakh.

“There will be no supply of pulses, edible oil, flour, atta and spices to any district of Bengal from the Calcutta wholesale markets,” said Sanjay Upadhyay, president of Posta Goods Transport Operators’ Association.

Bimal Nag, president of the Traders’ Federation of Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s markets, said: “Prices will keep rising, as there is no supply from places like Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Nasik. Local supply of fish, green chilly, tomato and other vegetables has also dwindled, with the local truckers joining the strike.”

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