Dealers selling government subsidised rice and flour in Bangladesh capital Dhaka kept their shops closed for second consecutive day on Sunday demanding an increase in the commission they get on sales.
On top of low commission, the dealers alleged they need to regularly bribe government officers to get the supplies which increase their operational cost.
‘We cannot operate in the circumstances,’ said Dhaka city OMS association president Alamgir Saikat.
‘The government must give us a commission of Tk 5 on sale of a kg of rice or flour,’ he demanded.
Alamgir said dealers selling essentials supplied by Trading Corporation of Bangladesh get at least Tk 4.50 as commission on sale of per kg or litre of products.
‘Another problem is bribery by government officers,’ said Alamgir.
He said that dealers needed to bribe food officers to get allocations and police also demand money for allowing them to operate on the street.
The strike of the dealers caused raised eyebrows as it came amid growing allegation against them that they were making a handsome profit by manipulating
the subsidised supplies and selling those on black market.
Each dealer gets a tonne of rice and two tonnes of atta every day for sale with a commission of Tk 1.50 on per kg sale of rice and Tk 1 on per kg sale of atta.
On April 28, the New Age revealed that many of the dealers were selling less than a third of their daily allocation to people it was intended for, with the rest of the supply being sold on black market.
A Mirpur based dealer Abdul Khaleque said a dealer earns Tk 3,500 from a day’s sale, which is lower than a shop’s daily operational cost of Tk 4,000.
He said the money is spent for bribing government officers and for hiring a mini-truck and two men for operating the outlet.
Khaleque said they came up with an alternative of doubling their daily allocation to government to help them cope with the situation, but to no avail.
Director General of Directorate General of Food Badrul Hasan admitted that the commission OMS dealers get on their sales is too low and they already recommended for increasing the commission to Tk 2.
‘The recommendation is being considered by the government,’ said Badrul Hasan.
‘We are requesting the dealers to continue with their operation until a final decision comes from the government,’ he added.
OMS dealers’ leader Alamgir said that they may postpone their strike until June 4, which will be followed by an indefinite strike if their demand was not met by then.
The dealers have been seeking a review of the existing commission rate since the government resumed in March its Open Market Sale programme to keep prices of staple affordable for poor amid growing market prices.
Earlier in March the dealers abstained from their work partially at least twice.
The market price for a kg of coarse rice is Tk 42 and atta Tk 35, according to TCB.
The sudden discontinuation in OMS activities is likely to impact low income people badly in the month of Ramadan, when prices of essentials spike more than normal.
Besides Dhaka, the government is running OMS outlets at more than 800 other points, down to the district level, across the country.
Their operation continued unhindered.
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