BALASORE : The West Bengal Government has been caught on wrong foot for the unofficial ban on inter-State movement of trucks carrying potatoes. Protesting the unethical ban, hundreds of Bengal traders launched an agitation on Monday and threatened to intensify it, if the matter is not resolved soon.
They claimed to have lost more than `100 crores in the last few days due to the unofficial ban on the supply of potatoes to outside State. The loss is expected to rise further resulting in escalation of potato prices.
Though the traders are ready for transportation of the tuber to Odisha, illegal detention of vehicles by the Bengal police at various locations and bribe demand by patrolling staff has forced them to remain unmoved.
A trader, on condition of anonymity, said he had sent three trucks which were checked at least five times en route before being detained at a toll gate. “The truck drivers managed to cross the check posts paying `2,000 each at two places but they failed to convince the cops and transport officials when they demanded `5,000 at the last toll gate,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Bengal Government has intensified patrolling along the roads to Odisha to check movement of potato carrying trucks. An eyewitness said the police are checking each and every truck and those carrying potatoes are being returned to cold storages.
On Saturday, Bengal Government led by Mamata Banerjee agreed to allow inter-State movement of trucks carrying potato after Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik spoke to her over phone on the issue. The neighbouring State apparently relented after 500 trucks carrying vegetables, eggs, fishes and other perishable items from Andhra Pradesh were detained by BJD activists at various places in Balasore. But the Bengal Government again resorted to unofficial ban after the Andhra trucks entered its territory.
Balasore Collector Aravind Agrawal, who had a talk with his West Midnapore counterpart, said the Bengal Government was yet to instruct its officers to allow the movement of trucks to Odisha. “Though after the CM-level talks, we released all the detained trucks to West Bengal, they took back all the potato-laden trucks to their State,” Agrawal said.
The local traders, however, said the Bengal Government will have to pay a heavy price for betraying the Odisha Government. President of District Perishable Goods Association, Ajay Biswal, said it was nothing but betrayal. “When the Bengal traders are ready to supply potato, why is the Government imposing a ban on them?” he questioned.
Balasore administration said there is no reason to worry.
The district has a stock of over 20,000 quintals of potato, which will be sold through PDS outlets. Civil Supply Officer DK Sahu said potato was being sold at `20 a kg through five outlets in the town and two in Soro and Nilagiri.