As CAPD fails to fix rates, overpricing of essentials burdens consumers

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Chicken sold at Rs 145 a kg, vegetables costly by about Rs 20
Saqib Malik

With the failure of the CAPD to enforce the rates of essential commodities, the overpricing of food items like vegetables, pulses, mutton and chicken has became a order of the day in the valley.

Under the pretext of Srinagar-Jammu Highway closure due to ongoing inclement weather, traders and hawkers are over charging in absence of a rate list, consumers say.

Food, civil supplies and consumer affairs department or CAPD is supposed to revise the list of essential commodities but the consumers say the department has failed to fix the rates of daily use food items, which has given a free hand to the shopkeepers and vendors to charge exorbitantly and vary from market to market, even within Srinagar city.

Prices of live broiler chicken have increased by Rs 20-Rs 40 in last few weeks as in most of Srinagar markets it is being sold at Rs 130- Rs 145 per kilogram while a dozen of eggs is sold at Rs 65 which is much more than a month ago. Similarly, mutton is being sold between Rs 420-Rs 450 per kg while the price notified by the FCSCA in 2016 is Rs 400.

While the CAPD department officials say the market checking teams are constantly keeping a check on prices, most consumers complained that they don’t see presence of any such squads.

“The checking squads show their presence only around festive time such as Eid. Most of the CAPD people are in hand in glove with these vendors and shopkeepers who are overpricing,” said Basit Ahmad, a consumer at Hyderpora.

With arrival of winter, the sharpest increase in prices has been of vegetables. At Kokar Bazar in the city-centre, Kashmiri haakh is being sold for Rs 40-Rs 50 per kg which is almost Rs 15 costlier than it was priced a few days ago. The biggest shocker in terms of overpricing is that of traditional nadru or lotus stem which is being sold at Rs 250 per kilogram. Just two months back lotus stem was being sold at Rs 150 per kg.

“Vegetable vendors are making excuses that it is difficult for them to take out the nadru from Dal Lake due to freezing temperatures. This does not mean that they will shoot up prices by double,” said Farooq Ahmad, a customer.  Potato which used to cost Rs 25 per kg has also become dearer and is costing more than Rs 40 per kg in the market now. “If this is the scenario of the market right now what does one expect the rates to be during harsh December and January. The authorities must at least issue a rate list for perishables such as vegetables so that vendors and shopkeepers stop forcing us to buy on exorbitant prices,” said another shopper.

A consumer at Dalgate said he was informed by a shopkeeper that there is no fixed rate-list for perishables such as green vegetables as there wholesale price is ever-changing. “I was told that the vegetable dealers had approached the CAPD and urged that they already suffer huge losses due to the short shelf-life of these vegetables and that there should not be a rate-list. It is quite strange that rate-list for onions, potatoes, tomatoes, saag and other vegetables are fixed time to time but don’t get implemented,” he said.

When contacted, Nisar Ahmad Wani, director, CAPD said there have been “hurdles” in fixing a rate list as vegetable vendors and mandi dealers are insisting on high rates, much more than the prices recommended by the department.

“We have held several meetings with vegetable vendors and are trying to find a middle path. We will come out with a rate list soon so that people are not forced to buy at costlier prices. But it becomes duty of common people to come forward and inform the department in case they face overpricing,” Wani said.

Wani said market checking teams have penalised several erring shopkeepers and vendors who were selling goods costlier than the actual prices and recovered almost Rs 2.5 lakh in October from various markets.