North Bengal Flood - markets feel the pinch
Darjeeling, July 17, 2017: If the North Bengal flood situation does not improve in the next 7 days and trucks continue to remain stranded then Siliguri along with neighbouring Sikkim could face an acute shortage of vegetables. The price of vegetables has also shot up manifold.
The usually bustling Siliguri Regulated Market, the biggest wholesale market of this region, now wears a deserted look with transactions coming to a near standstill.
"This market receives vegetables and fruits from all over the country. Vegetables are then sent to different areas including Sikkim and the other North East states. With trucks not plying owing to the flood, there is an acute shortage of vegetables. If this situation
continues for 7 more days then we will definitely face a major crisis," stated Shiv Kumar Gupta, Secretary, Siliguri regulated Market.
Owing to the floods affecting transportation creating the shortage prices have skyrocketed. "In case the vegetables are being transshipped over the affected area by man loads. This has increased the price," added Gupta.
The price of green chilly has shot up to Rs. 80 a kg in the whole sale market from the usual Rs. 20. Similar is the case with all vegetables.
Onion is selling for Rs. 30 as kg; Tomato Rs. 70 a kg; Squash at Rs. 20 per kg. Fruits are hardly coming in.
"First it was the Gorkhaland agitation bandh that had affected the market and now it is the flood. The market depends greatly on the Darjeeling Hills, Kalimpong and state of Sikkim. 45% of the business is Hill oriented. Truck and trains are both closed thus drying up the supply chain. We do not have cold storage facilities hence whatever we
buy we try to sell immediately. There is no system of storing goods," stated Tapan Kumar Saha, businessman.
There are around 850 businessmen in the market. In normal times around 200 trucks come and go. "Such is the condition of the roads that drivers are unwilling to take the risk. Trains are also not plying" stated Saha.
With the wholesale market facing a crisis, the retail markets of Siliguri as well as the public have already started feeling the pinch.
"There is a shortage of vegetable. What will we sell? The sellers of local vegetables have stopped coming to the markets as local produce has been damaged in the flood," complained Gobindo Das, a vegetable seller of the Champasari Market in Siliguri.
As for the consumers it is a trying time. "Prices have gone up manifold. A few days ago bottle gourd was Rs. 25 a kg and now it is Rs. 60. How will we cope up to this crisis?" questioned Rana Mitra, a local resident. Around 293760 hectares of agricultural land has been affected in the floods in North Bengal.
Even the fish business has hit rough waters. Along with trucks not able to bring in fish from Kolkata, Bihar and other parts of the country, the local fish business has also been affected by the flood.
Samar Mondal buys fish from fishermen in Gajaldoba and sells the fish door to door in apartments and houses in Siliguri.
"All the local fishes including Bata, Koi, Shorputi that are usually fished out of ponds have been washed away in the floods. My business has come to a grinding halt. I have no fish to sell" lamented Samar Mondal, fish seller.
Along with Gajoldoba, local fish is sourced from Raigunj and Gangarampur. All these places have been affected by the flood.
Around 4 lakh 10 thousand people have been affected in the North Bengal Flood. Though train services from Malda onwards to North Bengal and the North East has been disrupted North Bengal State Transport buses have started plying from Thursday from Kolkata to Siliguri taking a detour through Raigunj.
With air fares on the Kolkata - Bagdogra sector crossing the Rs. 20,000 mark the Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal has written to the Ministry of Civil Aviation to check the abnormal rates.