In a bid to bring respite to citizens of Kolkata facing skyrocketing onion prices, the state government will provide the vegetable at a price of Rs 59 per kg at the fair price shops of the city from tomorrow. The decision has been taken following a meeting between officials of the state food and supplies and agricultural marketing departments with the dealers of the fair price shops at Khadya Bhawan today.

The pink vegetable which has burnt holes in the pockets of the middle class will be sold at subsidised rates on first-come-first-served basis. The state government, taking a cue from the sale of the vegetable at subsidised rates at its Sufal Bangla counters, has decided to extend it to the 935 fair price shops of Kolkata. “All the MR shops in Kolkata will be selling onions at the rate of rupees 59 per kg per family,” informed Mr Pradip Mazumdar, advisor to the chief minister on agriculture and allied sectors.

“The government will not only subsidise the price, but will also absorb the cost of transportation and distribution and losses in transit,” he added. The initiative of providing the vegetable at subsidised rates will initially be started in the fair price shops of Kolkata and is likely to be extended to different parts of the state later. “The department is seeking the help of around 100 self help groups to market the commodity at rupees 59 per kg across the state so that the benefit reaches as many residents of West Bengal as possible,” pointed out Mr Mazumdar. If the effort through MR shops becomes successful, the scheme will be extended across the state soon, according to Mr Mazumdar.

The scheme of providing subsidised onions across the city will require about 100 tonnes per day. The state government is expected to get onions from the central government in December. “Within two days of the information that the government of India was planning to import onion from various countries, we have indented and it was assured to be delivered in early December. In November, we had sent the indent for 800 tonnes in total at the rate of 200 tonnes per week. Unfortunately, till date we have no clear idea when it is going to arrive but indicated date of arriving at NHAVA SHEVA Port initially is on 15 of December.

For clearance it will require another three to four days. If the arrival date of 15 holds, we can expect that the onion stocks will start moving towards the city only around 16 and reach Kolkata earliest by 19 or 20 of December. However, everything depends on when it arrives at NHAVA SHEVA Port,” said the advisor to the chief minister. Mr Mazumdar further rued, “We had indented in the month of September but we received only about 20 tonnes of the vegetable of which more than half were rotten.

As per the agreement, five officials from the state government had gone to the centre and had procured a sorted variety of the vegetable, but the loaded truck was not sent to Kolkata from there. Meanwhile, the fair price shop dealers hailed the initiative of the state government. “We are happy with the initiative. We do not demand any margin or commission for the distribution of onions but request that the correct weight and proper quality of the commodity is provided,” said one such dealer.