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Tuesday, November 3, 1998
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80 salt hoarders detained
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Nov 2 — The salt scarcity scare which sent the residents of Delhi scurrying to buy salt in large quantity seems to be waning.

Most shops reported a temporary scarcity of salt as panicky consumers had bought huge quantities of the commodity yesterday following rumours that the prices of edible salt were slated to touch the Rs 60 a kg mark.

Since morning, those people who were unable to buy salt yesterday, queued up to purchase it today. The salt situation began to normalise by afternoon when it became clear to the people that there was no scarcity of salt in the market.

The Delhi Food and Civil Supplies Minister, Ms Poornima Sethi, said that about 80 persons have been detained in a crackdown on hoarders and black marketeers of common iodised salt.

She said that there was no shortage of salt and "it is available in plenty throughout the city".

The Weights and Measures Department continued to raid shops from where reports were emanating of salt being sold at a higher price.

In one particular incident at the Indian Airlines colony near Vasant Vihar, a shopkeeper was selling salt packets priced at Rs 6 for Rs 20. The people of the area, infuriated by the inflated price, called up the authorities concerned and lodged a formal complaint against the shopkeeper, who was arrested for selling salt at a higher price.

The situation in East Delhi colonies took longer to normalise as the rumour of scarcity of salt continued to do the rounds till late afternoon.

The Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president, Ms Sheila Dikshit, lashed out against the BJP for its failure to control black marketeers and hoarders who had escalated the price of common salt.

"Indifferent and callous attitude of the BJP government has resulted in the salt crisis in the Capital," the DPCC President said.

Brushing aside allegations by the ruling BJP government that the Congress was responsible for the salt rumour, Ms Sheila Dikshit said, "The BJP-led Delhi Government had failed to put its act together and it was searching for a scapegoat to blame for its own inefficiency and mismanagement."

Giving an ultimatum to the BJP government that by tomorrow if the situation did not come back to normal, the DPCC President said the Congress would take out protest marches throughout the Capital against the government similar to the Dandi march taken out by Mahatma Gandhi against the colonial rule.

"No salt scarcity"
The Centre today dismissed rumours about a shortage of salt in the country, saying that there were enough stocks of edible salt to meet the country’s requirements for the next six months and more.

As against the monthly requirement of five lakh tonnes of edible salt in the country, the total availability of the stock in country was estimated at around 40 lakh tonnes. There was also about 28 lakh tonnes of salt available with the captive salt works for their industrial requirements, a part of which can be also released for edible purposes.

The Secretary, Industrial Policy and Promotion, Mr T R Prasad, told newspersons here that as on November 1, the availability of salt in the country was 68 lakh tonnes and there would be surplus stock to be carried forward to the next season. This stock is available mainly with the salt producing states of Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan.

Mr Prasad, who was accompanied by the Salt Commissioner and Consumer Affairs Secretary, Mr N N Mukherjee, said there was some loss to salt production as a result of the cyclone in Gujarat in June this year, but due to immediate restoration and rehabilitation measures taken by the state government and the Salt Department of the Union Government, stocks have been built to fully meet the edible salt requirement of the country.

The new salt crop is expected to become available right from the beginning of January and "hence, there is absolutely no need for any apprehension about salt availability in the country and there is no cause to panic," he said.

As on October 31, requisitions for 27 rail rakes were pending for loading at various loading stations of Gujarat and Rajasthan for supply to Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. Five rakes are meant for supply in Delhi and 22 rakes for Uttar Pradesh. Each rake has a capacity of 2200 tonnes. The position has been reviewed by the Member (Traffic), Railway Board, and instructions have been issued for immediate allotment of rakes for carrying salt to various destinations. He has further issued instructions so that all new indents for rakes could be met within 24 hours.

All the leading salt manufacturers in the public and private sector have sent fax messages to the Salt Department, indicating immediate availability of large quantities of stock at normal prices.

According to the Gujarat Salt Federation, 20 lakh tonnes of salt available in Gujarat and they were willing to supply any quantity of iodised salt at 75 paise per kg in 75-kg bags for Gujarat.

Hindustan Salt Works, which is a public sector undertaking, has one lakh tonne of salt and is committed to supply any quantity from its supply points in Rajasthan and Gujarat at the rate of Re 1 per kg in 75-kg bags.

The Managing Director of Tata Chemicals has telephonically informed the department that there was already a stock of 6,000 tonnes in Delhi alone and they were further rushing three rakes of iodised salt from Mithapur in Gujarat.

Several other associations and salt manufacturers like the Gujarat Salt Federation, Rajasthan Iodised Salt Manufacturers Association, Navan Namak Utpadak Sangh, Rajasthan, Salt Manufacturers and Merchants Association, Tuticorin, Wellbrines Chemicals Ltd and Camerin Laboratories Pvt Ltd, Chennai have indicated availability of large supplies of iodised salt at reasonable rates. In fact, some of them have stated that for want of adequate orders, their production has been curtailed.

Mr Prasad said there was absolutely no basis for apprehending any shortage in supply or rise in prices of edible salt. The rumours spread by vested interests obviously have triggered bulk buying in some areas, he added.

He advised the consumers not to fall into the trap set by such rumour-mongers and avoid bulk or excessive buying of salt which was available in plenty and was enough to meet the requirements of both the consumer and the industry.back


Prices to be under control soon: FM

PARIS, Nov 2 (PTI) — Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha today expressed confidence that prices of essential commodities will be brought under control by year-end as adverse seasonal factors had already begun to taper off.

"By the end of the year, we will have a more comfortable rate of increase in the wholesale price index than at the moment," Mr Sinha told a video press conference simultaneously from here and New Delhi.

As much as 3 percentage points of the 8 per cent inflation rate currently witnessed was on account of primary food articles and once their prices stabilise, inflation would come down, he said.

Referring to the fiscal deficit, Mr Sinha said India would be successful in containing it at the targeted 5.6 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The minister, who is here to take part in the two-day conference organised by the World Bank on private investments in infrastructure in India, said he did not agree with the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) forecast of a higher fiscal deficit at 5.8 per cent.

"I am confident that it will be contained at 5.6 per cent," he said.

Elaborating on the rationale behind this, Mr Sinha said the government was committed to a tight control on public expenditure and on no account would it be allowed to exceed the budgeted level.

The Finance Ministry had recently directed secretaries of various ministries in this regard, he said adding "We will not allow expenditure to run away".

On revenue mobilisation, he said direct tax collections had exceeded the targets though there was a shortfall on the indirect tax front.

The Finance Minister said the government has initiated the process of disinvestment with the selling of shares of the Container Corporation of India.

He said disinvestment of three other public sector undertakings like Indian Oil Corporation, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited and Gas Authority of India Limited would also be taken up soon.

The government was also pursuing its decision to reduce its equity to 26 per cent in all non-defence related public sector companies.

Mr Sinha expressed confidence that the government would be able to mop up the targeted sum of Rs 5,000 crore from the disinvestment process during the current financial year.

The minister refused comment on the Reserve Bank’s (RBI) decision not to cut cash reserve ratio or interest rates in its busy season credit policy and said, "The RBI Governor was closely watching the situation".

He, however, said there would be no dearth of funds for lending.back

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