rumours of shortage  trigger panic buying in state
STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE
Bhubaneswar, 11 November
The state witnessed an unprecedented panic buying of salt following a rumor spread since last night that there is an acute scarcity.
Scenes across the state capital and districts reminded one of the ‘Lord Ganesh drinking milk’ rumor that had the entire country rushing to temples with milk several years ago.
Even the educated elite of the state capital were seen rushing to shops to purchase salt. Stocks vanished from the shelf within hours. People were prepared to pay five times the price and they started purchasing more than their monthly requirement.
Given the potato crisis that has engulfed the state over the last one week, the word that salt supplies had also dwindled was ‘believable’ said consumers who stood in long queues before shops and even malls.
It once again proved the malfunctioning of the market intelligence wing of the state supplies department.
Flummoxed by the ‘salt crisis’, the government made public announcements declaring there are enough stocks and people should not believe in rumours. It also warned traders against jacking up prices or hoarding. District collectors were asked to step in and ensure that there is no panic buying. Common salt is available in abundant quantity in the open market. Some persons with vested interest have started a rumour about its shortage in the market which is false and baseless. The government is undertaking stringent action against such rumour mongers and vested interest elements. If any trader or retailer is found selling salt in higher prices, this may please be informed in food supplies and consumer welfare department toll-free number 155335.
Hence, all are requested not to panic about shortage of salt and not to go for panic buying of salt, said the statement issued by the state government in the evening today.
By then , however, people had purchased at higher prices and even stocked for a couple of months fearing the worse.
Opposition political parties like the Samajvadi Party criticized the government on its tall claims and false assurances. Have they booked a single trader till now, asked SP president Rabi Behera. The rumour mongers and unscrupulous traders should be booked under National Security Act, he demanded.  It is suspected that the rumour originated from Nayagarh district yesterday evening and the government did nothing about it. By this morning people were at the shops buying huge quantity of salt. Some of the shopkeepers were astounded.  The collapse of the salt industry in Ganjam and Puri district due to the recent cyclone had apparently given some credence to the rumour.  The fact that Odisha does not even produce the salt that it requires and has to depend on other states for supplies was also exposed.
Reports from Jajpur, Jagatsinghpur, Bhadrak districts said salt sold at Rs 40 to Rs 50 per kg this morning after news of the scarcity and the situation in state capital Bhubaneswar spread like wild fire. After potato, salt disappeared from the markets today said the reports. People hit hard by the ongoing potato pinch for the last couple of days had little reason to disbelieve the rumour. So the people made a beeline to the nearest shop to buy as much salt as they could, thus leading to mad scenes across the district. In Jagatsinghpur district the administration resorted to public announcements using a jeep to tell people not to panic and that there is adequate stock of salt.
But nobody paid heed to the announcements and common salt continued to sell at Rs 40 to Rs 50 per kg in Paradip, Kujang, Balikuda, Jagatsinghpur, Tirtol, Biridi, Raghunathpur, Naugaon and other areas of this district. Paradip Supply Inspector Salauddin Khan admitted, “Consumers are buying salt at higher rate in Paradip area, people are buying three to four kg of salt out of panic”.  People from Bhadrak and other districts started calling up their friends and relatives in Bhubaneswar to find out what has happened and how salt had vanished from the markets.