COVID-19: Essential commodities become costlier in Bihar

Night curfews have disrupted supply chain; it is during the night that goods are loaded on to trucks and transported to godowns

By C K Manoj
Published: Wednesday 14 April 2021
Price of essential commodities has gone up in Bihar due to COVID-19 disruptions. Photo: Vikas Choudhary

The prices of essential commodities have increased in Bihar over the last 10 days following a sudden spike in novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases.

The supply of essential products has been hit since several states have enforced multiple restrictions, including weekend lockdown and night curfews, according to local traders. 

Night curfews damage the supply chain for it is during the night that goods are loaded on to trucks, transported and unloaded in godowns, said Bihar State Food Trader Association general secretary Navin Kumar.

He added that the supply of mustard oil registered a fall of 25 per cent; it is mainly supplied from Rajasthan, which has registered a spurt in cases. Patna is supplied a maximum of seven-eight trucks these days against the normal of 10.

Mustard oil is currently being sold at Rs 142-180 a litre in Patna. Barely a fortnight ago, it was being sold at Rs 128-150.

Similarly, refined oil registered an increase of Rs 14; the price of pulses went up by at least by Rs 25. Toor dal (pigeon pea) and mung daal are currently being sold at Rs 120 a kg against Rs 97 and Rs 88 a kg earlier.

Turmeric, red chilli and other spices too registered an increase in prices. The price of packed milk powder for children went up by Rs 20.

Some traders said the increase in the prices of essential commodities could be the result of hoarding by big traders in a bid to create an artificial crisis of goods to earn profits.

“Some states are imposing certain restrictions, some traders are hoarding goods for the fear of a fresh lockdown,” Confederation of All India Traders (Bihar unit) chairman Kamal Nopani said.

Bihar State Retailers Association general secretary Ramesh Talreja said traders were trying to create an artificial crisis of goods.

The prices of fruits such as Kiwi, orange, papaya and lemons have increased.

Retail markets have been incurring huge losses. Bihar too has imposed several restrictions: Business establishments are functioning only till 7 in the evening.

The state has registered more than 800 per cent increase in COVID-19 cases in the past 13 days. It recorded a total of 488 cases on April 1, which went up to 4,157 as on April 13. This is the highest single-day caseload in the state since the pandemic began last year.

Most hospitals — such as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (Patna), Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) and Nalanda Medical College and Hospital (NMCH) — have run out of beds.

“Of 112 beds in COVID-19 wards at the PMCH, 83 are occupied,” PMCH superintendent IS Thakur said. Similarly, only six and 16 beds are available for COVID-19 patients at AIIMS and NMCH.

The state government has now allowed 33 private hospitals to dedicatedly treat COVID-19 patients. These hospitals have 733 beds, of which 433 are already occupied. Paras and Ruban hospitals have no beds for COVID-19 patients.

The state government April 13 deputed three Indian Administrative Service officials at three top government hospitals to closely monitor the situation.

The deputation was made in the light of complaints by patients and their attendants that after a gross negligence of a premier government hospital came to light.

The PMCH administration came under severe criticism on April 11, when it declared a COVID-19 patient dead and handed over another person’s body to the family without allowing them to have the last glimpse of the body.

The hospital administration later dismissed the hospital manager for “negligence”.

It was when the victim’s wife allegedly bribed the crematorium staff to allow her last glimpse of her husband’s face that the truth came to the fore, according to officials.

Crematoriums in Patna have been working overtime: In the past 48 hours, as many as 43 bodies have been cremated, a local media reported April 14.

“Majority bodies are being sent to Bans Ghat crematorium for disposal. The situation is difficult,” Patna municipal corporation (Patliputra circle) executive officer Pratibha Sinha said.

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