Bhopal: City residents in a pickle over rising grocery, veggie prices

Bhopal: With the city under lockdown for more than a month now, the people are finding it difficult to fulfil their basic needs. All shops, barring drugstores, are closed. Milk sellers are allowed to open their outlets for two hours from 7 am to 9 am and vegetables and fruits can be sold on handcarts.

The arrangements made by the administration for online supply of groceries are inadequate. Online stores are taking more than a week to supply orders, many items are not available and sellers on handcarts have hiked the prices of vegetables and fruits. The prices of edible oils and pulses have gone up.

The lockdown was enforced in the city on April 13 and, since then, it is being extended in instalments. On Sunday, it was announced that the city will now remain closed till May 24. And there is no certainty that the curbs will not be extended further.

Professor Babita Agrawal, who lives in Narayan Nagar, says that the thelawallahs have raised the prices of vegetables and fruits. They are selling apples for Rs 300-400 per kg and mangoes for Rs 150 kg—a big jump from the prices that prevailed when the lockdown was enforced,” she says.

“We were sure that lockdown won’t be enforced as the chief minister kept on insisting that he was against lockdowns. However, a lockdown was suddenly announced on the night of April 12 without any notice,” she says.

Agrawal had given her spectacles in for repairs. “I couldn’t even collect them and I’m somehow managing,” she says. Similarly, she could not pick up clothes from her dry-cleaner and tailor.

“Even if the government had given a few days’ notice, we could’ve made preparations,” she says. According to Agrawal, the online stores are taking a long time to fulfil orders. “I ordered some items on April 28 and I was told they would be delivered on May 8,” she says.

Pinki Verma, a housewife who lives with her family in Professors’ Colony, is not facing any problems in getting grocery items. “We know the owner of a grocery store in the Old City and he supplies whatever we need,” she says. But the grocers, she says, have increased the prices of several essential items, including edible oils, sugar and pulses. “A 15-litre can of edible oil that was priced around Rs 1,400 is now being sold for Rs 2,500,” she says.

Pinki, however, is worried that the online classes of her children are going to begin soon, but she can’t buy the books they need. “Also, the weather is so hot and humid. Had the shops been open, I’d have bought some cotton clothes. They’re comfortable,” she says.

Shirish, a resident of New Market, also complains that the online stores have long waiting lists. “They supply orders after 10 or more days and, even then, many items are missing. They say that some items are out of stock,” he says. For instance, he says that, even after contacting many online stores, he could not find shaving razors.

A software engineer, Priyanka Tripathi, says that Amazon and Flipkart are not making deliveries in the city. “For instance, I can’t buy masks, sanitiser or a pulse oximeter online. I’d have to visit a local medical store and expose myself to risk,” she says. According to her, the online stores are taking full advantage of the situation. “They’re taking up to 15 days to deliver orders and are charging whatever price they want. We never faced this kind of problem even during the last lockdown,” Tripathi says.

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