Politicians and business leaders have demanded speedy trials through a tribunal for those who, working as a syndicate, have hiked product prices.
They voiced this demand under the banner of Bangladesh Shadharon Nagorik Shamaj (Bangladesh General Citizens Society) at a discussion on controlling the market syndicate of rice, eggs and daily commodities at the Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU) auditorium in the capital yesterday.
Mohiuddin Ahmed, convenor of Shadharon Nagorik Shamaj, said, "The syndicates have committed criminal offences. The Bangladesh Competition Commission has already filed cases against several companies for manipulating prices. We demand a speedy trial of the syndicates through a tribunal. No one will dare to go for syndicates if they get exemplary punishment."
He said, "For a long time, we have been demanding that the government control market syndicates and rising commodity prices. But prices are increasing day by day instead of decreasing. Syndicates are involved in all the products in the market, including rice, eggs, toiletries and edible oil."
Bangladesh Poultry Association President Mohammad Suman Howladar said a number of institutions are currently controlling the poultry business and it is they who increase the prices of poultry feed and chicks overnight.
He further said, "Government institutions support certain industrial groups without considering the condition of the small businesses. If this continues, the poultry industry will be destroyed in the future. The number of poultry farms has now declined from 1.6 lakh to 60,000."
AKM Khorshed Alam, president of Bangladesh Auto Rice Mill Owners' Association, said, "There is no paddy named Miniket. It is a brand. So consumers should go to the market and ask for BR-28, BR-29, or Paijam rice. If they do this, the companies will not be able to sell rice at higher prices under the name of Miniket."
Junaid Saki, chief coordinator of Ganasanghati Andolan, said, "A small number of companies are controlling the market. It is natural that traders will make profits, but controlling them is one of the responsibilities of the government and state institutions. It appears that there is no accountability of government ministries and institutions in market control."
He added, "The government should buy and create a stock of essential products to supply them at a fair price to consumers in crisis. Controlling the market will not be possible as long as the government does not assert itself in the market."
Saiful Haque, secretary of Revolutionary Workers Party of Bangladesh, said political parties should be vocal about consumer rights and create pressure on the government to punish syndicate traders.
Kazi Abdul Hannan, editor of Bhokta Kantho, said, "Mobile courts are handing down light sentences to serious offenders. It encourages criminals." ***