KATHMANDU, April 6: It seems that the government has put its plan to operate fair price shops for ensuring smooth supplies of daily essential amid the lockdown enforced to contain the spread of COVID-19 on the backburner.
Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies couple of weeks ago had started that the government will open fair price shops at different places to provide some relief to people amid the lockdown. But no such shop has come into operation yet.
The government usually opens fair price shops before Dashain, Tihar and Chhath festivals (September-October) to provide essential food items to people at affordable prices. But the government had decided to open fair price shop amid the lockdown to prevent hoarding, possible shortage and black-marketing of food commodities.
The government had ordered Food Management and Trading Company Limited (FMTCL) and Salt Trading Corporation Limited (STCL) to collaborate and operate fair price shops. But these public enterprises have not made any preparations yet in this direction.
Lal Mohan Thakur, divisional head of FMTCL, told Republica that there are no plans to operate fair price shops now. “Currently, we do not have any plans on operation of fair price shop as we are focused on operating our sales outlets,” said Thakur, adding: “We were seeing huge crowd of shoppers when we had induction stoves in stock. Now, we are seeing only few customers at our outlets even though we have been selling food grains at discounted rates.
FMTCL has five sales outlets at Nakkhu, Thapathali, Lagankhel, Bhaktapur and Ram Shah Path. It also has a fleet of vans to operate mobile outlets. But it has stopped operating mobile outlets.
“We have stopped operation of our mobile outlets as they are not considered safe due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As the vans are thronged by huge crowd, we felt it is unsafe,” he added.
Kumar Raj Bhandari, information officer at Salt Trading Corporation Limited, said that his office has not received official letter from the government regarding operation of fair price shops. “We do not have any plan to operate fair price shops,” Bhandari said, adding: “We are focused on providing services from our outlets as well as vans.”STCL has sales outlets at Satungal, Koteshwar, Kalimati, Banepa and Bhaktapur and three vans to operate mobile outlets.