Kolkata/Shillong/Aizawl: Panic buying of salt over rumours that it would disappear from markets led to the price hitting Rs 100 per kg in Darjeeling, as the West Bengal government on Friday assured of no shortage and hoarders would be punished.
Reports of panic buying of salt were received from Darjeeling, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur, Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri districts in north Bengal.
"There is no shortage of salt in the districts as per the district administration and the food and supply department," an official statement said here. It advised people not to pay heed to rumours by 'mischievous people for undue profit' and said that Police have been instructed to take action against those spreading rumours and hoarding salt.
Read here: Salt zooms to Rs 200 on Bihar rumour
Rumours of salt shortages hit Meghalaya too with panic stricken people buying salt at exorbitant prices which forced the state government on Friday to launch an immediate crack down and announce that there is enough stock of salt in the state.
"There is an unfounded rumour of salt shortages in the state capital early this morning which immediately spread all over the state," Principal Secretary Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs P.W. Ingty told PTI.
"I have cross checked with my counterparts in Assam and other states as well and confirmed that it was just a rumour," Ingty said, adding that there is enough stock of salt for the next six months in the state. In Shillong, there were reports of retailers trying to illegally sell salt at Rs 150 a kilogram, police said. Many were detained in connection.
Meanwhile, Mizoram government on Friday warned businessmen against hoarding 'salt', which was rumoured to be sold for as high as Rs 300 a kilo in some areas of the state.
Rumours from Bihar that salt was unavailable hit Mizoram and the other north eastern states which resulted in prices skyrocketing and panic buying. Some shops in Aizawl sold more than 100 quintals of salt in just three hours this morning, while in some places in southern Aizawl one kilo of salt sold for Rs 300, reports said.
North Bengal Development Minister Goutam Deb said in Siliguri that there was stock of two lakh quintals of salt in the north Bengal town which was sufficient.
"Some political parties with help from unscrupulous traders have created this situation," he alleged.
A monitoring office will start functioning from Friday till January 1 next year where people could make complaints over price rise of essential commodities, Deb said. Siliguri Merchant Association president Om Prakash Agarwal demanded strong action against unscrupulous traders.
In Darjeeling district, complaints were lodged with the Consumer Department of the GTA and the Hill Council that salt sold for Rs 100 a kg at Kalimpong, Kurseong subdivisions and Sonada in Darjeeling subdivision on Thursday.
At Itahar in North Dinajpur, Police dispersed people who became unruly while standing in large queues to buy salt. The police denied that a lathi-charge was made as alleged by the people. Salt sold for Rs 50 to Rs 60 a kilo in Raiganj, Itahar and Kaliaganj last evening when the rumour started, the reports said.
The North Bengal Salt Importers Association president J.K. Saraf said that there was enough stock for one and a half months and there was no question of a salt shortage. The administration set up counters in various areas of the district where two kgs of salt per head were sold this morning.
In South Dinajpur district, salt sold for Rs 30 to Rs 45 a kilo last evening. Following the rumours, the police and the members of the Byabsayi Committee made public announcements during the day that there was enough stock for six months. In Jalpaiguri district, though salt was selling at the normal Rs 10 per kg, some bought it between 10 to 15 per kg last evening.
Jalpaiguri Sadar SDO, Seema Halder, said that there was no crisis of salt and steps would be taken against traders selling it at a higher price.
Next: No panic buying of salt in Bihar, says state govt
No panic buying of salt in Bihar, says state govt
Patna: The Bihar government on Friday claimed that there was no panic buying of salt in the state after the state government launched crackdown on hoarders and rumour mongers by arresting 21 people and also a publicity campaign about abundant availability of salt.
"The artificial crisis about shortage of salt spread by the rumour mongers with vested interests has been successfully overcome through a massive publicity blitz and crackdown against the hoarders and rumour mongers," Principal Secretary (Food and Consumer Protection) Shishir Sinha told reporters.
"We have succeeded in convincing the consumers about abundant availability of salt in the market and with the stockists as well as the source and supply lines to Bihar functioning as usual," Sinha said.
There has been no no report of panic buying of salt from anywhere in Bihar and the consumers have been reported to be purchasing the commodity as per requirement at the rate of Minimum Retailed Price (MRP), Sinha said.
The Principal Secretary (Food and Consumer Protection) said on the direction of the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar the government machinery was activated in a hyper mode yesterday and multi-pronged action plan launched to nip the crisis about artificial shortage of salt in the bud.
Sinha said so far 21 people have been arrested and 15 FIRs lodged against those indulging in rumour mongering about the shortage of salt in various districts and added that the profiling of those arrested in this connection was being done to find out their role in creation of artificial crisis about salt triggering panic buying by the consumers.
More arrests and FIRs were likely in this connection, he said.
Assuring the people about availability of salt in abundance in Bihar to meet demand for a long period, the Principal Secretary (Food and Consumer Protection) said that he has been in touch with the Odisha government officials and also the Jaipur-based Central Salt Commissioner M.A. Ansari.
The Assistant Salt Commissioner Rajesh Nag will reach Bihar by this evening to apprise the state government about availability and supply of salt, Sinha said, adding a rake of salt weighting 2600 metric tonne has reached Maroofgang depot in Patna, while another rake will be arriving at Fatuha soon.
On the rumours about the artificial shortage of salt, he said that the rumour mongers spread falsehood in a well coordinated manner in Odisha and Bihar.
Five persons have arrested in Begusarai and four in West Champaran, he said, adding three persons each have been arrested in East Champaran, Purnia and Jamui districts, while one each has been nabbed in Patna, Nawada and Gopalganj districts.
The police authorities of the affected districts were carrying out detailed probe about the source of rumour and those selling salt at disproportionate rate to the consumers.