Saga of price hike  

Published: July 29, 2018 22:07:44 | Updated: July 31, 2018 22:06:17

Price hikes have ever remained a bane for people in this country. What needs to be considered is the condition that triggers any price spiral. If it is artificially induced, it is not only an unethical business practice but also leaves its deleterious impact on the country's economy in many ways. Every year during the monsoon when rains fall incessantly and many areas go under water, the kitchen market becomes volatile with lean supply. Items like green chilli, vegetables can be dearer, no doubt. But then there is a section of traders who create an artificial crisis -greater than it really is -- in order to make the most of the situation. This is unfair. Right at this moment, the elements have conspired to produce an inclement weather where production and supply will definitely suffer a bit but this should not lead to a condition for fleecing the consumers with outrageous price hikes of all the essentials.

It is not only the prices of perishable varieties of agricultural produce that have become jittery, the staple rice has also registered increased price. Rice price is falling in the international market. Along with those, livestock items such as eggs and chicken are also becoming dearer. The list does not quite end there. Onion and spices have also marked a restive price tendency. Anyone can see that some items have nothing to do with the worsening weather. The crux of the problem has to be found there. There is no need to be an expert to identify the reason behind the price escalation. Traders have done this before and they are doing it now and they will be doing it in the future unless, of course, effective measures are taken against manipulative means resorted to for conditioning market to suit their purpose.         

Traders target occasions like the big festivals for maximising their profit. Eid-ul-Azha is not far away and the time has proved doubly propitious because of the rains. Until recently, their syndicated attempt to raise prices of essentials was not very conspicuous this time. But now they seem to have thrown caution into the wind and are after exaggerated profit. Consumer rights bodies have noticed the move and have pleaded with the government for conducting regular market monitoring and supervision. What needs to be ensured is that traders have no scope for artificial disruption of the supply line in order to hike prices.

True, in open market economy demand and supply are decisive in matters of maintaining price levels. But when the process itself is disrupted by manipulative means, it is criminal. In this country, prices shoot up vigorously if commodities in the international market go up even moderately. But if prices fall in the international market, prices do not respond accordingly; or if they do, it takes a long time to do so. The excuse is that the stock was of the earlier lots but the same excuse from the consumers is not entertained when cheaper import of earlier batches suddenly register hike. The hike is made effective immediately. Monitoring should cover imported commodities at this level too.

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