Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Bangladesh: Anti-RAB protest hits Chittagong Markets

Traders at the market alleged that Rapid Action Battalion members went to the market Monday and forced them to sell per-kg onion at Tk 15, against their buying cost of Tk 22. Speaking on the occasion, the business leaders threatened to announce tougher programme if the ‘RAB harassment’ was not stopped immediately and the persons involved in "torturing" the businessmen were not punished in 48 hours from Wednesday.


Ctg wholesalers blast RAB action, down shutters


CHITTAGONG, Oct 19: Businessmen of the country’s biggest wholesale market Chaktai Khatunganj in the port city shut down their businesses for the whole day today to protest, what they said, repression by members of the RAB, reports UNB.

The disruption of supply of onions, garlic, ginger and other spices from the wholesale market to different parts of the country added to the plight of people, especially in the time of price spirals during the month of Ramadan.

Sources said nearly 200 tonnes of onions, 50 tonnes of garlic, 50 tonnes of ginger and 200 tonnes of spices are supplied to different parts of the country from the business hub everyday on an average. Traders at the market alleged that Rapid Action Battalion members went to the market Monday and forced them to sell per-kg onion at Tk 15, against their buying cost of Tk 22.

Some 200 godowns and 1,000 retail shops remained closed during the daylong strike. A protest rally was held at noon amid the strike. Hamidullah Market Businessmen Association Vice-president Jamsedur Rahman presided over the rally.

Speaking on the occasion, the business leaders threatened to announce tougher programme if the ‘RAB harassment’ was not stopped immediately and the persons involved in "torturing" the businessmen were not punished in 48 hours from Wednesday.

BSS adds: Some members of the RAB Monday took position at various wholesale business houses, particularly at onion shops, in city''s Khatunganj and Chaktai markets and monitored the prices.

"At one stage of RAB presence, the price of onion came down to Taka 15 per kg from Taka 28 to Taka 30," Rafique, salesman of a shop, told the agency on condition of anonymity.

He said the traders started selling the onion at previous rate after the RAB members left the area.

Wholesale traders alleged that RAB members forced them to sell onion at Taka 15 per kg which is at least Taka 7 less than their buying rate and that several businessmen were assaulted physically by the law enforcers.

But Director of RAB-7 Chittagong Lt. Col. Quazi Emdadul Haque denied the allegation and said a section of dishonest traders were trying to save their face by bringing false allegations against the RAB.

"Allegation of businessmen about bashing by RAB men and reports published in a section of the press in this regard are not true at all," Col Emdad said.

He said they started selling the onion for Taka 15 a kg spontaneously after seeing the RAB personnel.

"We saw at least 100 to 150 truckloads of onion at Khatunganj area yesterday. Why do they blame poor supply for price-hike of onions?" the RAB director said.

He said they would continue their operation as per the Government''s directive against the dishonest traders, kingpin of illegal trade syndicate and mastermind of adulterators.

Commenting on engaging the RAB in market monitoring, President of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) Amir Humayun Mahmud Chowdhury said drive against criminals to curb crime and action against businessmen to control prices are not the same.

"How can a businessman in lower stage of marketing chain fix the price of goods at his own when none in the country can do anything when the price of a particular import-commodity rises in international market," the CCCI President said. He urged the government to withdraw the 7.5 percent import tax on rice to keep the price of rice in the internal market at tolerable level.

However, common people at the wholesale market of Khatunganj and grocery and kitchen markets at Bahaddarhat, Kazir Dewry and Reazuddin Bazar appreciated the government''s decision to engage RAB in controlling the price spiral of essential commodities and action against the dishonest traders.

"Government should apply all the options, like carrot and stick policy, in keeping the prices within the reach of commoners. We support even more stringent action against the hoarders and adulterators," Kabir Ahmed, a retired school teacher, told the news agency at Reazuddin Bazar.

A number of importers and wholesale traders in city''s Khatunganj and Chaktai areas hinted that present price level of important commodities, like onion, garlic, spices, lentil, rice and milk powder, are likely to come down within three or four days as huge imported items have started pouring into the market.

A vegetable vendor at Kazir Dewry kitchen market said they are afraid of RAB men and are trying to sell vegetables with minimum profit.


News Today 20/10/2004