SHILLONG/TURA/JOWAI: The State on Friday witnessed a ‘salt emergency’ as the commodity flew off the shelves and sold from Rs 100-150 per kg.
The sudden increase in the price of salt sent shock waves across the city with everyone rushing to buy as much salt as they could get. A church elder from Jowai who came to Shillong on some work got a call from family and friends asking him to buy 50 kgs of salt. The price of salt doubled within a fortnight.
Traders took advantage of the rumour of salt shortage and inflated the price claiming that they have run out of stock of this essential commodity.
Several shopkeepers in the city blatantly refused to sell salt to customers saying they had run out of supplies.
East Khasi Hills District Magistrate Sanjay Goyal admitted that rumours were rife about salt shortage across the state.
Goyal allayed the fears of people and said there is no shortage of salt supply for Meghalaya as confirmed by the Chamber of Commerce.
When told that many shopkeepers are refusing to sell salt, he said that action would be taken against them.
He even appealed to the public not to panic, but salt was sold like hot cakes for a change.
“The district has enough stock and more of it will be arriving on a daily basis,” Goyal said.
An emergency meeting of the District level price monitoring committee comprising whole-sellers and members of Chambers of Commerce in Shillong was held on Friday to take stock of the situation and as of there is enough stock so there is no reason for the public to buy salt in bulk. This will only encourage mischievous traders to hoard salt and raise the price so as to create artificial shortage,” he said.
The retail price of salt was fixed at Rs 16 kg for Tata Iodized, Rs 10 Kg for Taaza and Rs 12 kg for prime, Everyday, Shakti, Annapurna and others.
Nongpoh and Nongstoin also witnessed a similar scene.
The sudden jump in the price of salt took the residents of Shillong by surprise. Satl was the only thing they bought on Friday.
“We don’t understand how the price of salt increased within one night,” a housewife Uma Devi said.
The sudden hike in salt prices has come as an added jolt for residents who are still dealing with over-priced onions after the vegetable touched Rs 80 per kg in Shillong a few weeks back.
Several localities were in the dark about the action taken by the district administration as public announcements were not been made in several areas.
In the salt buying spree many traders and businessmen made a windfall during the day.
Moreover, panicky people worsened the situation by buying off more salt than needed.
The source of the rumour is yet to be established but it has affected the entire State.
The rumour originated from media reports citing that the price of salt has gone up in Bihar due to shortage of supply. .
Meanwhile, Controller of Legal Metrology, IW Ingty stated that selling any commodity beyond the MRP violates Rule 18(2) of the Legal metrology (Packed Commodities) Rules 2011. He has issued a strong warning against anyone who contravenes the provisions of the law. Also the District Administration of West Garo Hills seized 301 Kgs of salt from one retailer who was selling it at a higher price on Friday.
West Garo Hills Deputy Commissioner Pravin Bakshi said there is no shortage of salt in Tura and some unscrupulous traders tried to inflate the price.
The district price monitoring committee and vigilance committee also met and fixed the rates for salt after getting feedback from wholesalers and retailers.
The scene was similar in Garo Hills.
Salt which used to sell at Rs 10 a kg in the wholesale market and Rs 14 in the retail shops of Tura suddenly skyrocketed on Friday following rumours about its scarcity.
By midday citizens were purchasing a kilogram of salt from anything between Rs 20, Rs. 50 to as high as Rs. 150. As word got around about a possibility of scarcity, citizens began to stock up on the ingredient purchasing it in bulk.
A customer who usually purchases a kg of salt suddenly began to buy ten kilograms over apprehension that there could be a scarcity.
Williamnagar and Baghmara experienced a salt crises too as word about the shortage spread. People rushed to their nearest shop to buy salt.
The district administration of Tura was allegedly caught on the wrong foot unaware that such a crisis was brewing even though there had been reports about panic buying in neighbouring Singimari town, a day earlier.
However, traders had a different story to tell and blamed retailers for the high pricing and customers for purchasing in bulk.
“We tried to make customers see reason and told them there is no scarcity but still they insisted on purchasing salt in bulk. The entire day salt was the only commodity which was in demand in my shop,” said wholesaler Prasad from Tura bazaar.
In Jowai town, people were seen standing in a queue and rushing from shop to shop to buy salt.
“People came rushing to my shop and start buying salt in bulk. Within an hour all my stock of salt was gone,” said a shop owner in Iawmusiang Jowai”.
Almost all shops including those in remote Jaintia Hills took advantage of the rumours and made capital from salt. In Jowai, salt was sold from Rs. 60, to Rs 100 per kg and in villages up to Rs. 200 per kg.
A lady in Jowai, sent her daughter to buy 58 kg of salt soon after she heard of the scarcity. Some people from Ummulong and other villages also came rushing to Iawmusiang to buy salt at a higher rate.
Sources also informed that in Khliehriat and Sutnga area people bought salt at Rs. 200 to Rs 300 per kg. At around 12:30 pm, salt in Jowai went out of stock and despite the announcement people were still rushing to shops asking for salt.
A person from Ummulong area who came to a shop in Iawmusiang informed this correspondent that he was ready to pay Rs. 200 a kg for salt.
The administration caught three traders red handed while selling salt at a higher rate.
“We have summoned and questioned them,” a Magistrate informed.
(With inputs from our Nongpoh and Nongstoin correspondents).
Retail prices of salt
Tata Iodized Rs 16/kg
Taaza Rs 10/Kg
Shakti,Annapurna Rs 12/Kg