IMPHAL, November 15: An unsubstantiated rumour regarding the acute scarcity of salt originating from Patna, spread through many states of India and reached Manipur today resulting in panic buying of packaged salt in the markets and shops across the state. The mad rush for salt started since early morning.
People were seen swarming shops buying salt in bulk at various parts of the city and greater Imphal areas.
Some of the customers indulged in panic buying said that they were driven to do so as they were informed that a huge salt factory was completely burned down at Maharastra while others claimed that salt production in coastal areas have been restricted due to a recent cyclone.
As the rumour spread like wildfire across the state, a similar state of panic prevailed in other districts.
Although the anxiety lasted for few hours, stocks of salts at many shops reportedly ran out. Taking advantage of the rumours, traders and shopkeepers in various parts of the city sold salt at prices way above their retail prices, touching Rs 50-150 per kg while the actual cost is just Rs 16 per kg.
In Bishnupur, the salt prices skyrocketed from 50 to 190 rupees but in some pockets the prices spiralled much higher. In Jiribam, Churachandpur and Thoubal the prices ranged from 100 to 150 rupees.
While people in Imphal and other districts of the state continued to be gripped by a sense of apprehension in availability of salt in the market and shops, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution (CAF&PD) Minister, M Okendro appealed to the people to stop panic buying and observed that the present scenario is a product of misplaced rumour.
He further maintained that there is no dearth of salt and called upon the people not to believe in such unfounded rumour.
The minister also observed that any shops or business establishments indulging in shady business taking advantage of the situation will be punished under Essential Commodities Act. He also revealed that a meeting with concerned CAF&PD officials with representatives of Chamber of Commerce was held today following the artificial crisis and added that all concerned authorities of all the districts of Manipur has also been informed officially to act accordingly and avert further crisis.
The FCS minister also maintained that the present rumour might be instigated by shady businessman having vested interests and urged the people to be aware of the reality instead of believing in rumours.
Meanwhile, in an incident that occurred at Kwakeithel area in Imphal west, the salt crisis leading to the panic buying prompted the state police to interfere as some shopkeepers tried to sell salts above retail price.
Teams of Manipur police swung into action to disperse the panic salt buyers to stand in queue and warned the shopkeeper not to indulge in shady business and sell above retail price. Only one package of salt per person was allowed for buying and the stocks of salt ran out to the disappointment of many customers.
Our Bishnupur correspondent adds, SDPO Hopson and DSP(Ops) M Rameshwor conducted a drive at Bishnupur, Nambol, Ningthoukhong and Moirang and searched shops for salt. They further made the available stockpile of packaged salt available to the public afterwards. An announcement was also made that there is no dearth of salt supply and the public has nothing to be apprehensive about.
Since morning, rumours originating from unidentified sources on the scarcity of salts spread to Manipur inducing panic buying among public thereby throwing the price of salt per packet to Rs 50- 150.
In Jiribam, volunteers of Jiri Development Organisation, AMSU District Council, MSF Special Branch and DESAM Local Council got hold of traders selling salt above their rates. They were released after giving advice not to hike the price.
In connection with unexpected demand for salt, the Protection and Preservation Committee Manipur (PPCM) has voiced its reservation on the hiking of prices and issued warning that punishment will be awarded to any shop found selling the item above the print price.
If anybody finds shop(s) selling salt beyond its fix price, they can complain to the members of PPCM by calling the numbers 897492101; 9612848340; 8794271097, a spokesperson of the organization said while addressing media persons at its office at Wahengbam Leikai.
Convenor Elangbam chanu Tampha Tombi stated that Price Fixation Committee for controlling the price hike has not been introduced although it is mandatory under Essential Commodity Act, 1995.
In regard to the controlled price hike by businessmen in the state, the PPCM had already submitted memorandum to Consumer Food and Public Distribution and CAF&PD minister, Moirangthem Okendro but the concerned minister and department have remained silent, she said.
She further said that in the state the fair price shops were not supervised properly which had led to losing facilities of getting essential PDS items at the cheapest rate, and added that the mobile selling of PDS items will not provide sufficient relief to the consumers.
AMUCO has urged public to contact them at 8730830276 in case they come across people selling salt at higher prices.