Providing cheaper food is good politics for any government. And the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government has been doing just that by dotting Kolkata with mobile vans that provide fish, chicken, vegetables and fruits at reasonable prices to the consumer.
A number of government fair-price mobile vans selling chicken, fish and fruits have sprung up across Kolkata. Around 21 such vans, that attract attention with their message, now sell organically dressed chicken at prices well below the market rate. Eight stalls deal in fish and with the advent of Ramadan, half a dozen fruit stalls have opened.
“Chicken prices had shot up above Rs 200 a kilo. That is when we decided to step in. The motive was two-fold -- check the rising prices and discourage the illegal slaughter of the birds on pavements,” said Pradip Majumdar, advisor to the chief minister on agriculture and allied sectors.
Majumdar said with the government chicken shops doing brisk business, the prices have now dropped to below Rs 150.
“Basically, it is a mechanism to keep the prices of these commodities under control and set up a pricing benchmark to be followed by the market,” said Majumdar.
After successfully selling chicken, the government has now followed it up by vending fish like Rohu, Katla Mrigal, Tilapiya at wholesale prices.
“Through our eight stalls, we’ve daily been selling eight quintals of fish at wholesale rates. The initiative is not only giving fish cultivators good prices for their produce, the common man can also avail of their favourite fish at reasonable prices,” said Fisheries Minister Chandra Nath Sinha.
The fish stalls have been a big draw among customers for their prices are 20-25 per cent below the market rate. However, the initiative comes with a rider -- a customer cannot buy more than a kilo.
The government is also selling fruits during Ramadan, when soaring demand triggers a steep price rise.
In June, this year, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa announced that state transport corporations will set up mineral water plants and sell bottled water at Rs 10 per litre. Also, her government has launched a line of low-cost canteens where idlis are sold at Re 1 each and sambar-rice at Rs 5.