Potato traders call indefinite strike, prices likely to go up

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Hooghly (WB), Sept 8: Potato prices in the retail markets of the state could again shoot up with a large potato traders' body deciding to go on an indefinite strike from tomorrow protesting against police highhandedness and government apathy towards the traders' plight.

Traders from across the state today met at Arambagh here under the aegis of Pragatisheel Alu Byabasayee Samity (PABS) and took the decision today.

"More than 27 lakh tonnes of potato are being stored in 425 cold storages in the state. If the tuber is not sent to Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Assam, it will simply rot. The embargo on transportation of potato has to go as West Bengal does not have so much demand," said Shantanu Manna, state president of PABS.

"The state government's rate for selling potato at Rs 14 per kg in the retail markets is not prudent as the countrywide average retail price of the tuber is Rs 30 per kg.

"Mustard seeds are grown at many places in West Bengal. So why is the state government not regulating the retail price of mustard oil here? We are being termed as black marketeers. The police are harassing us everyday. Only yesterday a potato trader was brutally assaulted by the police in Purulia district," alleged Baren Mondal, secretary of PABS.

The PABS office bearers said a representative of the Chief Minister's agri-advisory committee had called up during their meeting today and has been informed about the association's decision.

"We have conveyed our decision to him and have also told him that if the Chief Minister wishes to meet us during the strike, we will go for talks," said Manna, adding, Trinamool Congress All India General Secretary Mukul Roy had assured them of a meeting with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on her return from North Bengal, which did not happen.

"We will also seek an appointment with the Governor to appraise him about our plight and seek his intervention," said Mondal. Reacting on the strike call by PABS, Minister of State for Agriculture Becharam Manna said, "The government had taken a decision (fixing retail potato price at Rs 14/kg) keeping in mind the troubles faced by the poor and middle class people."


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