Most OMS dealers not selling rice

High price of subsidised staple blamed

Emran Hossain | Published: 00:26, Apr 01,2020


People huddle around an open market sales outlet under Babu Bazar Bridge in Dhaka on Tuesday. — Sony Ramany

A handful of government dealers selling subsidised rice in the capital keep up their services as most of them have registered low sales as sales in the open market sales outlets have dropped in last few days.

Traders said that the buyers were showing little interest as the price of rice in the outlets was higher than the usual.

Many of the handful of subsidised shops said that the supply they had would take days to sell out with a kg of coarse rice sold at Tk 30, nearly the market price of Tk 40.

It has been two weeks since the food minister asked the government dealers for open market sales of rice but only 18 of 120 shops responded till Tuesday with less than 20 tonnes of rice on sale, said the chief controller of Dhaka Rationing office.

‘The government is aware that the price is high compared to many peoples’ current purchasing ability,’ food minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder told New Age.

‘We are trying to find a way out of this situation,’ he said.

Delwar Hossain, an OMS outlet in-charge, said that he took a tenth of his daily allocation of rice, which is 100 kg, with a third of it still remained unsold until 2:00pm.

However, the government’s incompetence in ensuring transparent rice distribution is big problem.

There has been evidence of subsidised rice being sold in the black market and the government’s response to check that proved inadequate.

The food minister shared with New Age his fears of the possibility of many of its dealers stealing rice once its price is lowered overnight to help the poor even in this crisis of coronavirus pandemic.

He said that a list of destitute people would have made thing easier for the government but there was no such list.

‘They are all thieves. I doubt if I get a grain on my plate even if the government decides to give us emergency food support,’ said Amena, a middle-aged woman resides at Shahinbagh in Dhaka.

Amena, a house help by profession, not only lost her job but his tea vendor husband became unemployed after the public holiday came to force on March 26, which was extended for five more days until April 9.

Clusters of women and teenager girls gathered around the corners of the streets at Shaheenbagh, just beside the Prime Minister’s office, checking to see if any affluent people were there to help.

Rina, seemingly the leader of the cluster Amena was moving with, demanded that the government adopt special measures to help them through the food crisis.

‘Emergency food supplied through regular dealers would go to their relatives and friends but never to us,’ she said.

More than 40 lakh people are employed in the informal sector in the Dhaka city with most of them living day to day.

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