STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE
Along with other districts of north Bengal, Darjeeling Hills and Sikkim were hit by ‘an unsubstantial rumour,’ as claimed by the administration, about the shortages of salt, prompting people to panic-buying. Eleven traders, both wholesalers and retailers, were detained from Darjeeling for selling salt at exorbitant prices. The figure was two in Kalimpong.
In Darjeeling, since morning, people were found flooding the markets to purchase salt. However, things became normal by the evening as the district administration along with civic officials stepped in.The same was the situation in neighbouring Sikkim as the people were found thronging in a fit of panic around the groceries to buy as much quantity of the kitchen essential as possible. Gangtokians rushed to the nearest Bigbazar to acquire stock. According to the staff from Bigbazaar, around 900 packets of salt were cleared till 4 p.m.
While in the urban areas of Darjeeling, the price of salt was hovering in the range of Rs 20 and Rs 30 a kg, the range was a staggering Rs 40-50 in the rural areas. Normally, a packet of salt weighing a kg is sold for Rs 10 to Rs 12.
Darjeeling food and supplies department maintains that there are no shortages of salt in Darjeeling. The SP, Mr Kunal Agarwal, met the distributors and the retailers to take stock of the situation.
However, the source of the rumour is yet to be fixed. It was rumoured that the reduced supply of the commodity from Gujarat has triggered the crisis. Gujarat accounts for nearly 70 per cent of India’s salt production, according to Indian Salt Manufacturers Association (ISMA).
In Sikkim, Mr C T Wangdi, secretary of the food and civil supplies department, said over phone that there is no need to panic.
“We have enough stock left to sustain us for over five more months,” Mr Wangdi also said.
“As far my knowledge goes, Siliguri is getting no supply of salt from Bihar, resulting in the scarcity. However, it will not impact us, as we have sufficient stock of iodised salt which we bring from Gujarat. Moreover, the crisis will not persist long,” he said.
“To keep a check on the price in the capital, the deputy directors of the department are deployed to monitor,” he added.