Darchula locals forced to pay steep prices for essentials as festivals nearPrice of even locally-grown vegetables has gone up making it unaffordable, say locals.
The price of goods and daily essentials in Darchula has gone up in the last eight months in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. As the festive season approaches, the prices have climbed further up, making daily essentials unaffordable for the locals in remote regions of the district.
Narendra Singh Dhami, a local of Byas Rural Municipality in Darchula, said, “The cost of Mota rice in Darchula Bazaar is Rs 55 per kilo. In last year’s Dashain, the same rice was available at Rs 40 to Rs 45 per kilo. The cost of cooking oil has also increased.”
According to Dhami, the prices of almost all daily essentials, including food grains, have gone up this year. “We also have to pay extra money to tractors to transport goods from Khalanga, the district headquarters, to our villages.”
It takes Rs 350 to transport 40 kilos of rice from Khalanga to Sunsera on a tractor.
“From Sunsera, we have to carry the rice sacks on our back. By the time a 40-kg rice sack costing Rs 1,850 reaches Sunsera, the price will be Rs 2,250,” said Dhami. “No one in our village can afford to buy such expensive rice.”
According to locals, the prices of daily essentials have increased since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Dipak Joshi, a local man in Duhu, says the price hike has made life difficult for everybody in rural Darchula.
“Moreover, food items that reach our villages are past their expiration dates. This year has been especially tough for us with the price hike and the poor quality of food products,” Joshi said.
Indraraj Pant, vice chairperson of the Darchula Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says that despite repeated complaints from the locals regarding the price hike, the concerned authorities are not doing much to address the issue.
“The retail price of food grains and other daily essentials has gone up in Darchula but nothing has been done about it. There has to be some sort of a control mechanism to keep such price inflation at bay,” Pant said.
The District Administration Office in Darchula conducts market monitoring exercises, especially around the festive season, but the office says that it has not received any complaints of price hike from consumers.
Jyotsana Bhatta (Joshi), assistant chief district officer in Darchula, said, “Two days ago, a market monitoring team inspected stores in Khalanga Bazaar. Some expired food items were seized from the area. We will start monitoring the market area to minimise unnecessary price hikes.”
Even vegetables that are grown locally and do not incur transportation costs are being sold at an expensive rate, says Kiran Joshi, a local of Mahakali Municipality. “The cost of vegetables has increased threefold. The price of potatoes has gone up by Rs 40 per kilo. And all these vegetables are grown locally and do not warrant a price hike since there are no additional transportation costs to factor in.”
On Friday, a joint market monitoring conducted by the District Administration Office, Food Technology and Quality Control Office and the local unit found around seven quintals of onions stored in a vegetable godown at Mahendranagar Bazaar in Kanchanpur.
Kalpana Bhatta, the administrative officer at the District Administration Office, said, “The operator of the vegetable shop has been fined Rs 5,000. This incident has shown that vegetable shopkeepers in the district are creating an artificial shortage of onions in the market.” According to her, the team has started monitoring vegetable shops in the bazaar areas after receiving complaints of shortage and black-marketing of onions.
The team also found expired food items being sold in the Mahendranagar area, said Nawaraj Dahal, an official involved in market monitoring from Dhangadhi-based Food Technology and Quality Control Office.
“We have seized all expired food items,” said Dahal. “We will keep a check on the sale of expired and substandard food materials during the festival season.”
Bhawani Bhatta in Kanchanpur contributed reporting.