Appearance of two contrasting news items on the front page of this newspaper has baffled the readers to a great extent. One of them is a three-column story headlined ‘Rice prices keep soaring,’ while the other single column story highlighted a statement of the agriculture minister assuring people that market prices will remain stable during the month of Ramadan. In our country, when the fasting month approaches, it is customary for a minister to issue public statements like this one. But, in reality, people’s sufferings mount as prices of essentials irresistibly skyrocket during this special month every year due to lack of market monitoring.
Anyway, Ramadan is yet to come. It is around one month that is left for its arrival. But, before its arrival, the gradual rise in prices of rice has come as a bolt from the blue for the public in general. Rice is the staple diet of the people. So, its abnormal price-hike has directly hit hard the consumers, many of whom already face income losses due to the corona pandemic. A question haunts the public, whether it is just a ploy of unscrupulous traders to soar the prices of all other consumer items in the coming Ramadan. Whatever be their ill motives, the government must intervene before time runs out. Strict market monitoring is required to protect the consumer rights. The agriculture minister has also assured about huge stock of food grains in public godowns. So, the arbitrary price-hike of rice and some other consumable items is not at all acceptable; they have resorted to this illegal practice merely for excessive profiteering. It must be stopped.We urge the administration to immediately launch mobile court drives being led by magistrates to take stern action against the profit mongers. We also urge for strengthening the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) so that it may effectively curb price manipulation. We love to believe that the minister’s assurance of maintaining market stability during Ramadan would be translated into reality. But, the first step to do so is to bring down the prices of the staple rice at once.