Following the scrapping of ₹500 and ₹1,000 currency notes, India has witnessed a slew of bizarre and tragic incidents. Given that the majority of the country doesn't have access to internet and has no way to verify information, the confusion that has ensued has led to rumours about a steep hike in prices of essential commodities. Late on Friday, reports of salt being sold at exorbitant rates trickled in from across the country.
A report on The Hindu quotes a social activist from Jama Masjid area in Delhi as saying that towards early evening, a kilogram of salt, which usually costs ₹25, was being sold in local shops for ₹50. Later in the evening, the price swiftly rose to ₹250 and then shops refused to sell salt at all. The said hike in the price was based on a rumour that the country is running short of essential commodities like salt and sugar, leading to some shops to try duping customers.
The same report says that WhatsApp forwards doing the rounds have been 'warning' people that we are soon going to run out of oil, sugar, milk etc too. A south Delhi resident told the paper that he went to Khan Market in Central Delhi to buy 5 kg salt as 'precautionary measure' on Friday evening, but couldn't find any.
False alarm bells were set off in Mumbai as well.
"Rumours about price hike are doing rounds. These are baseless," a Mumbai Police spokesperson told PTI.
According to reports, Mumbai police control room was overwhelmed with frantic calls from people wanting to know if the prices had really skyrocketed — even up to ₹700.
Mumbai police control room was overwhelmed with frantic calls from people who wanted to know if salt was really selling at ₹700 per kg.
But the police appealed everyone via Twitter not to believe rumours, saying there is no shortage of salt or any other necessary commodity nor is there any price hike.
A report on The Indian Express states: "Panicked people thronged shops as salt shortage rumours spread across parts of Uttar Pradesh on Friday night. In Moradabad, there were reports of panicked customers flocking to market as rumours flew thick and fast that salt has gone out of shelves and shopkeepers are selling at a premium."
However, the authorities were swift to act. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on Twitter that there was no shortage of salt and anyone hoarding essential commodities to sell at a premium later will be face action. Delhi Food and Supply minister held an emergency meeting on the situation and the Delhi Police issued an advisory, which the chief minister retweeted from his account.
Advisory pic.twitter.com/beE8BVZCBa— Delhi Police (@DelhiPolice) November 11, 2016
The Mumbai Police also tried to allay the fears of the public and issued statements on Twitter threatening action against rumour mongers.
Please do not believe in any rumours. There is no shortage of #salt or any other necessary commodity nor any price hike information.— Mumbai Police (@MumbaiPolice) November 11, 2016
A police official said the rumours may have originated from Uttar Pradesh, which had triggered a buying spree for these essential commodities, earlier in the day.
Ram Vilas Paswan, the Union Minister of Food and Public Distribution assured the public that there was no need for panic:
Food minister Ram Vilas Paswan dispels rumours of #salt shortage in Uttar Pradesh; says prices ruling at Rs 14-15/kg.— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) November 11, 2016
According to ANI, one person was even detained in Uttar Pradesh's Rampur for spreading such rumours in his area.
Salt shortage issue: One detained in Uttar Pradesh's Rampur for spreading rumours.— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) November 11, 2016
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had warned earlier:
"Obviously there are some inconvenience for a couple of days or couple of weeks but those inconveniences cannot be alibi that India continues to live with black money and parallel economy."
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