New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been strongly recommending partial opening of malls and running of public transport with a hawk-eyed monitoring of physical distance but has completely ignored price gouging that is the new malaise.
First was the alcohol on which a 70 per cent hike was slapped calling it the corona ‘tax’. It was a calculated move. The already cash-crunch Delhi government just allowed the government-run shops to open and corner the extra money during the time the private players were not allowed to reopen. Sources say that the prices will come down as soon as the other private vends open.
Surprisingly, most of the shops including the partially government monitored Mother Dairy outlets are not issuing cash memos/bills on the purchased items. This seems to be a new ploy to hoodwink customers into believing that the amount demanded must be authentic. It is humanly not possible to learn by heart the different prices of the various vegetables and fruits and calculate it while the mother dairy attendant weighs the items and announces the money to be given.
The Delhi administration has not given any diktat on the price gouging uptill now. The already tensed middle-class has to cough up extra money for many essentials which is making big holes in their pockets.
Price of almost all the commodities have zoomed high. While the partially controlled Mother Dairy outlets are selling potatoes at Rs 22 per kilogram, the range in the open market range from Rs 30 to Rs 40. Similarly the price of okra (Bhindi in Hindi and Lady finger in conventional English language) is being sold between Rs 40 and Rs 60 depending on the areas. Onion prices that generally rise during the peak summers is now being sold at Rs 30 though reports have come in that onion is in abundance. The plea that price rice in vegetables has been due to the non-operation of trucks but this does not hold good at present as the government clarified that the movement of trucks in interstate has been normalized since almost a fortnight.
The fruits’ rates are touching the sky. The ‘safeda’ mango is priced between Rs 100 and Rs 150 a kilo while water-melon in the open market is fetching between Rs 20 and Rs 25 a kilo. The Mother Dairy rates are Rs 12.
The slaughter houses are also not functioning in full steam. A kilogram of chicken is fetching the sellers a clean Rs 200 to Rs 250 while the reputed chicken outlets including Green Chick is selling a full chicken the rate of Rs 270 a kilogram.
The price of mutton, on the other hand, has skyrocketed to a range between Rs 900 and Rs 1600 a kilogram. Leaving alone the Delhi government to control the spiraling prices, it has not been able to take action against the erring sellers who are no more adhering to animal checkup nor are they in possession of any health certificate of a vet. Examples are many of a connivance between the animal husbandry officials and the wholesale suppliers of non-vegetarian items from the wholesale markets now in Ghazipur area of East Delhi. “What if the animal is deceased, it will be a health problem for the consumers,” said Rohit Bhattacharjee, a non-vegetarian to the hilt. “I have stopped eating mutton now since lockdown because I don’t trust the local butchers,” he added.
The cab service which is allowed to ply with only two passengers are also asking for more fare with the common excuse that since the seating capacity has been restricted, the fare had to be raised.
At a press conference, Delhi chief minister evaded the question if he would roll back the ‘lockdown’ if the easing of curbs in the Capital initiated COVID 19 infection. He said that lockdown was not a guarantee that the virus problem would be solved. “If the virus is going to be eradicated, then we don’t mind put Delhi under lockdown for more months,” he added.
Kejriwal was in praise of Delhiites who, he said, had displayed lot of sense in adhering to the COVID 19 guidelines issued by the Centre.
Now that the State governments and the Centre has decided to ease the curbs. Maintaining physical distance will be the onus of the individual shop owners but that, it is said, will be strictly followed for some time. It has been observed that given the attitude of the Delhiites, there will be chaotic conditions and the virus infection may spread.
Delhi, as it is, comes under red zone but the 4.0 shutdown without being changed into orange or green, is lifting some of the curbs. “If this was the case, why were the curbs not lifted partially in early May” said Shashi Jhingon, a delhi housewife.
Delhi Metro which will run on a skeletal service will initially be for the essential services personnel . The 264 metro stations have been disinfected and while there is a passenger limit in the metro trains, the Delhi government is blank on whether the trains frequency will be increased on the few routes that the metro will operate.
Kejriwal who has always symbolized himself as the ‘messiah’ of the common man and has several times claimed that he ‘understands’ their problems has been tightlipped over the sudden spurt in prices of vegetables and poultry products. Even there have been reports of general stores charging more than the marked maximum retail prince (MRP). The Centre perhaps is also following in his footsteps.
The spotlight turned on the migrant workers and Kejriwal immediately issued as press release asking the migrants in Delhi not to leave the city as they would be provided adequate food. But the migrants have had the taste of starvation and decided to flee the city where once they had a livelihood.