Believe it or not, salt was selling at an exorbitant Rs.150 per kg in parts of Bihar amid rumours of an acute shortage of the essential ingredient of food. The state government rebutted the rumours Thursday.
"Three people have been detained in Darbhanga district and one in Muzaffarpur for spreading rumours of shortage of salt," Bihar's Food and Civil Supply Minister Shyam Razak told media persons here.
He said more such people would be detained and interrogated to find out how and why the rumours spread in the state.
The arrested persons have been booked under provisions of Essential Commodities Act and were being interrogated by local police officers, Razak said.
The department officers made public announcements about abundant availability of salt in the market at prescribed rates and consumers stopped the panic buying, he said.
Stating that there is no truth in reports that the state is facing shortage of common salt, the minister said: "It is purely a rumour, nothing else. We have appealed to people not to purchase salt from the black market by paying four to ten times its original price."
The minister said people, particularly in rural areas, should not purchase salt in panic.
According to reports here, people in nearly a dozen districts, including Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga,Begusarai,Sitamarhi, Saharsa,Samastipur, Madhubani, Sheohar, have since Wednesday bought salt at Rs.50-150 per kg after rumours spread that salt will be out of market soon.
Taking advantage of the rumours, traders and shopkeepers in these districts sold salt at higher price, he said. "I have asked the concerned officials to inquire into rumours and take action against those found responsible for it."
However, Razak blamed opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for spreading rumours to defame the state government and creating an artificial crisis.
"Rumours were deliberately spread by BJP to create anger among people against the state government. BJP and its mentor RSS are well-known for spreading rumours," he said.
BJP leader Rameshwar Chaurasia refuted Razak's statement, while saying that the JD-U has become habituated to blame the BJP for everything.
Bihar state Congress spokesperson Prem Chand Mishra asked the state government to immediately deal with the dangerous rumours that have already created panic among people who are buying salt at high prices.
He too blamed the BJP for the rumours. "BJP leaders are experts in such kind of rumours to create anger against Congress."
With people already buying onions and potatoes at high prices, rumours of salt shortage rang alarm bells for the state government, Razak said.
According to officials here, salt mostly comes to Bihar from Gujarat.