THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The ongoing Onam Fair conducted by Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation is recording unprecedented sales. According to fair officer C R Ajith, “Now, the sales exceeds Rs 5 lakh every day. This is way above last year’s income. The reason could be the stark difference between the subsidised rates at Supplyco and the steep prices anywhere outside.”
Customers can buy up to five kilograms of rice at Rs 21 per kilo. This, compared to the Rs 29-34 per kilo at other places, is highly affordable. So much so that homemakers, mostly women, from even far-off places like Nemom and Kulathur are flocking to Putharikandam grounds, to get their share of subsidised rice.
Queues start forming as early as 7 am, even if the doors open only by 9.30 am. Sivakumari from Vellayani says, “I skipped my breakfast to reach early enough. But the queue was really long when I reached around 8.30 am. By the time I I have done the purchase it is 12.30 pm. Fortunately, I’m carrying my lunch.”
Even though the influx of people is high, there are just two counters. One is for rice, while the other is for pulses and other products. Supplyco officials at the fair said that the number of staff that they can recruit depends on the sales. They said that for every Rs 1,00,000 sales recorded, the government allows the recruitment of one daily wages staff at Rs 300 per day. This year, since the sales are quite high one more counter will be added. Ajith said that the new counter will start functioning from Tuesday or Wednesday.
After buying rice, the women are tempted to leave the heavy rice sacks somewhere, so that they can stand free in the other queue. But when they hear that 40 kilos of rice was stolen on Saturday, they drag the sacks along.
There is also a Horticorp and Kepco outlet at the fair. Because of the subsidised rates of the vegetables, even those from Vellayani are buying it. Tapioca is a hot favourite as it costs only Rs 15 at the fair, while outside its cost could go up to Rs 25 or Rs 30.
Despite the subsidised rates, some were not satisfied. Syamal from Kulathur says, “Those who have more than one ration cards, and buy things in plenty, can save more. I just have one ration card. With it I just get 5 kilos of rice, 1 kg each of the pulses and 100 gm each of the condiments at subsidised rates. I am not coming again, as I have to spend Rs 30 on bus tickets alone.”