Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today urged the Centre to come up with a policy to control rising prices of essential commodities, which she alleged was its “planned disaster” and announced increasing Sufal Bangla outlets to provide fruits and vegetables at subsidised rates. She also requested the Centre to roll back the hike in toll tax that is being charged from trucks carrying essential commodities.
The Sufal Bangla scheme, which was started in 2014, has rescued consumers in times of high inflation as the outlets allow people to procure vegetables at affordable prices. Currently, there are 332 Sufal Bangla outlets in the state of which 30 are in the districts. Miss Banerjee announced that there would be 500 such outlets in the state.
She said that vegetables are offered at subsidised rates at the Sufal Bangla outlets but the rates will be reduced further. Again a few fruits, namely banana, watermelon and dates and chickpeas would also be sold from here from now onwards. The outlets would be open from 8 to 11 am and 3 to 7 pm, she said. For instance, potatoes, which are sold in the market at Rs 22 to 30 will be available at Sufal Bangla outlets at Rs 18.
Similarly, bananas that are sold at Rs 60 to 70 a dozen in the market will be available at Rs 25. Similarly, gourd and cauliflower that are available in the market at Rs 25 and 35 respectively will be sold at Rs 16 and 25 at the Sufal Bangla outlets.
“Our hands are tied in this matter. We will try to provide vegetables and fruits that regularly consumed at much subsidised rates. Instead of engaging ED and CBI to raid houses of politicians it would have been better had it raided the markets for enforcing the Essential Commodities Act because this would have relieved people a lot. In the last 15 days the prices of petrol and diesel have been raised 16 times. The price of domestic gas too has been increased by Rs 250. There has been an 11 per cent hike in the prices of 800 life saving drugs. This is giving a ver bad message to the people. After winning elections in four states, this is a return gift by the BJP-run central government,” said Miss Banerjee at the task force meeting in Nabanna.
The state government will set up a Drug Laboratory to check the sale of fake drugs. Miss Banerjee also asked the transport department to arrange old buses for serving as Sufal Bangla outlets. She directed the Enforcement Branch to increase its vigil and closely monitor the markets so that traders do not increase price scrupulously.
Urging the Centre to provide the pending GST compensation and extend the compensation mechanism under GST by another five years, Miss Banerjee said: “The economic condition of the country is very bad. I don’t know whether the states will manage to pay the salaries of its employees or not. They (the Centre) are imposing cess on every commodity. We owe the Centre Rs 90,000 crore. I would request the Centre to release the GST compensation and extend the compensation mechanism under GST for another five years.”
Miss Banerjee further said that there would be a slight dip in potato cultivation this time due to blight disease, However, farmers would not be affected, she said. The state government will buy potatoes directly from the farmers for distribution in anganwadi centres and mid day meals.