10 days ago

Making Ramadan meaningful to all

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That the prices of essential commodities have been going up ahead of the holy month of Ramadan is no news. People know this and can also forecast how the kitchen market will behave at what points of time before and during the Ramadan. Though the price hike of commodities, especially of those called essential ones, is usually blamed on the unidentified 'dishonest section' of the traders, it is the general traders who draw more than their fair share of the flak. The government ministers also exhort the traders to be sensible, sensitive and ethical and so on during the month of self-abnegation. But those supposedly behind the commodity price hike, the corporate groups, the wholesalers and the retailers in the mahallas (neighbourhoods), seem to turn a deaf ear to the sermons from such unexpected quarters. But this time, so far as the report goes, the commerce minister recently called upon the general consumers to not go on a shopping spree to keep Ramadan prices of everyday essentials stable. That is as good as saying that  consumers themselves can also be an important driver of sudden commodity price spike before important social or religious occasions like Ramadan and Eid. However, consumers who can afford to buy and stockpile large quantities of items like meat, edible oil, sugar and spices are not general consumers. They belong to the higher income group, who are not as much affected by the soaring prices of essential commodities as those who have to stand in queue under the summer sun beating down on them mercilessly in the hope that the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB)'s truck will finally arrive. For the TCB trucks carry some essential commodities that are sold at a subsidised price to the less privileged consumers. And these people are certainly not the ones who are prone to unjustly stocking up on daily necessities. In that case, the government needs to ensure adequate supply of the essential commodities both through TCB trucks and government-appointed dealers all over the country so that the low and fixed income segment of the population can buy the basic necessities at affordable price.

In this context, it could be learnt that the TCB has also raised the price of broiler chicken by 27 per cent in a month and by 55 per cent over a year. Notably, the  prices of broiler chicken have seen a hundred per cent rise during the past five weeks so much so that it was selling Tk.260 a kilogram, according a report carried by this paper on Saturday (March 11). It has reportedly been alleged at a meeting of the National Consumer Rights Protection Commission (NCRPC) with poultry farmers, wholesalers and retailers that corporate companies involved in poultry farming are behind the galloping price of broiler chicken. Whatever the case, TCB should not at least increase the price of broiler chicken, especially during the Ramadan as it is an affordable  source of protein for the limited income people. And since TCB's purpose is not to make profit, but to serve the people, it should not increase the price of any of the items it sells in the open market. Moreover, the government should also intervene to break the nexus that is allegedly  working behind raising the broiler chicken price artificially.

However, it is not only meat, prices of all other basic necessities are also shooting up wildly. At such critical times, the government should do more to make this Ramadan meaningful to all.

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