In times of distress, instead of showing harmony and empathy, some shopkeepers of Sikkim were seen to indulge in greed. The shopkeepers in question took advantage of the fact that Sikkim will be on lockdown from tomorrow and started charging more than the fair price or the maximum retailed price of commodities. Literally cashing in on the panic and fear of the people some shopkeepers have skyrocketed the prices of essentials, however, alert citizens have started reporting the malpractice. Today, at Ranipool Bazaar, a good samaritan phoned Sikkim Chronicle and reported such an incident.
“My sister had gone to buy a sack of rice from a grocery shop that we regularly bought commodities from. Regularly the price of the same was ₹1,200 but the shopkeeper, saying that it was the last sack of rice, told that it cost ₹1,450. My sister called me, and I in-turn called Sikkim Chronicle,” says the person, who is from Ranipool, East Sikkim
“It is not only greedy, and unlawful, but also inhumane to do so, for some a 250 in price hike won’t be much but for some, it is a week-long supply of small commodities,” he adds.
Due to the same the Federation of Consumer Association- Sikkim (FCAS) has appealed shopkeepers, LPG dealers, petrol pumps, medical shops, etc. to provide essential commodities to the consumers in a fair price.
“I am getting lots of calls from concerned consumers from across the state on overcharging, black marketing by the shopkeepers”, reads a statement by Suresh K. Lama, Chief Coordinator (state), FCAS.
“In this lockdown due to the occurrence of a pandemic, we can see the shortages of those commodities. But again, to provide what shopkeepers, distributors, dealers have in their shops is the prime duty. If shopkeepers deny to provide the consumers with essential commodities besides having in stock, then it’s illegal and Essential Commodities Act of 1955 will be implemented against them.”
Keeping in mind that the state of Sikkim doesn’t have much of her own resources and most of the essential commodities need to be imported from other states, Lama has requested every business holdings to cooperate. The Essential Commodities Act 1955 is an Act of the Parliament of India, which was established to ensure the delivery of certain commodities or products, the supply of which if obstructed owing to hoarding or black marketing would affect the normal life of the people.
This includes foodstuff, drugs, fuel (petroleum products) etc. For instance, the Union Government on 14 March 2020 brought masks and hand-sanitizers under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 to make sure that these products, key for preventing the spread of COVID-19 infection, are available to people at the right price and in the right quality.
One may also contact Consumer Helpline number in case of reporting such malpractices.
The number of consumer helpline: 03592- 202675 (10 AM – 4 PM)
“We haven’t gotten many calls regarding the price hikes right since most calls we are receiving are queries about prices and if there is a lockdown right now. If we do, first we look into the matter, we take the name, address, and the registration number of the shops, and first intimate them to stop such practices and if there is an order issued against the shop, we act on it legally,’ say Sunita Subba, FCAS Counsellor (Legal).
Sunita also advised people to make more calls on the helpline number regarding price hikes and queries, stressing on the fact that it was crucial in such times (of a pandemic), adding that during the office hours, consumer helpline was always ready to answer queries and take complaints into consideration.