Dhaka, Bangladesh
Worrisome 'price war', transport chaos

Ruling politicians smell plot, oppn sees lack of control

Worrisome 'price war', transport chaos

Lorry strike called from today * Bus halt traps travelers in districts * Now salt-price hike rubs salinity into onion woes

News Special: Some call it 'price war' as gambling on salt begins now while people still suffer onion woes for an unprecedented market melee. Transport turmoil adds up to the disarray. Despite government affirmation of adequate stock of salt in the country, a reported hoax of short supply of this essential commodity jacked up its price as people went for panic buying. The salt brouhaha comes hot on the heels of evident price fixing of onion to cash in on reported shortfall in domestic production and an export embargo from India that even halted some ready consignments. It made 'world record' selling up to Tk 280 a kilogram. In a sheer paradox large hauls of onion rotting in hoards were seen being dumped into rivers while prices were skyrocketing on the plea of short supply. To tackle the market waywardness, the government is making import through air cargo. Many analysts suspected price fixing in 'gambling' on commodity market veritably like cricket gambling by means of match fixing. "Oligopoly of certain big businesses is behind it," says a common observation by a number of them. As the market turmoil took a turn for a new crisis in tandem with a number of crises on different fronts, Prime Minister and Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina and party secretary and minister Obaidul Quader aired scepticism and warned against wrongdoings. Latest on Tuesday came up the ruling coalition--the AL-led 14-party Alliance-with a wake-up call against "conspirators" behind the unwarranted happenings around. "It's part of a plot to destabilise the country by a vested quarter," said senior Awami League leader and spokesman for the Alliance Mohammed Nasim after a meeting in the city. "There're examples of doing politics over hunger in our country and a vested quarter is out to make the country unstable through hiking the prices of essential products, including onion, through syndication," he observed. Some economists are also critical of a chain of developments involving the market conduct. Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem of CPD pointed out rawhide and paddy debacle and onion-price spirals in a row. "Excessive profit motive works behind all this," he said, adding: "Policy response has to be right-timed to avert such exigencies." Statutory regulatory order on a proactive basis is one such instrument of maintaining market stability, economists believe. Like one of conjoined twins comes a veritable "chaos" on the transport front over a new law made with some stringent punitive provisions in the wake of alleged rampant transgressions of road rules, fatal accidents and traffic tailback in a crisis proportion. As the field-level enforcement began Monday, transporters went on wildcat strikes in different districts with travelers trapped for no fault of theirs. Worse still, lorry owners and workers called a sudden countrywide strike beginning this (Wednesday) morning. The AL general secretary urged the transporters not to go on strike that creates public sufferings. "Bringing discipline in roads is imperative. The law is not meant to punish anyone…," he said. Instant response came from both from transport owners and workers-- who make a peculiar difference from all other sectors in terms of owner-worker relations, analysts say understandably for some common benefits-that they would call the protest off only if their demands are met. "Strike will continue until the transport law is amended," said a number of transport unionists in spot media interviews as they staged demonstrations and burnt the effigy of a safe-road campaigner. They mentioned licensing irregularities, 'indiscriminate' fining and toll, non-bailable case and high-ratted fines laid down in the Road Transport Act 2018. Leaders of the mainstream opposition party--BNP-took a political view of the market and transport troubles. "The government has lost control of the affairs," said a party senior, Nazrul Islam, Tuesday as they are trying to take to streets over some burning issues and for release of their jailed chief and ex-PM Khaleda Zia. "It's an anarchic situation…The government should act to control it," said security analyst and former election commissioner Brig-General (rtd) M Sakhawat Hossain about the latest road scenes.

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