KATHMANDU: The Food Management and Trading Company (FMTC) and the Salt Trading Corporation (STC) have implemented the government-announced relief measure of giving 20 discounts on food grains since Friday.
The government, on May 29 through the budget statement, had announced to provide a 20 percent discount on food and cooking gas sold through the depots run by FMTC and STC during the prohibitory period.
“The government shall arrange to provide 20 percent discount on the price of rice, flour, pulses, salt, edible oil, sugar and cooking gas sold by the FMTC and STC during the prohibitory orders issued to curb the coronavirus pandemic,” the 55th point of the Budget Statement released on May 29 stated.
Six days after Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel’s announcement, the two government entities have implemented the discount facility. Although the declared discount was expected to bring relief to many during the coronavirus crisis, consumers have suffered.
Firstly, the consumers have to suffer to avail the discount facility as they cannot reach the stores or depots of Salt Trading Corporation Limited to get the discount. To get a discount, one has to have a house near the sales depot of these two companies.
Salt Trading Company’s sales outlets are located at Suryabinayak, Jadibuti, Jawalakhel, Kalimati, Satungal, and two other places in Bhaktapur.
Crowd in depots
STC spokesperson Kumar Raj Bhandari claimed that more than 800 consumers are availing of the discount facility daily from the sales booths at seven places in Kathmandu Valley. He shared, proudly, that there was a crowd of consumers after the discount was implemented from Friday.
“We have mandatory physical distancing, wearing of masks and using sanitizers,” Spokesperson Bhandari said, “Obviously, a large number of people were expected to crowd the depots after the discount.”
STC is currently selling cooking gas at Rs 1,120 by offering Rs 280 discount on the cylinder’s market price, which is Rs 1,400 per cylinder.
However, the discount facility is available only on STC cylinders.
Consumers can buy the cooking gas only from Koteshwor, Kalimati, and Satungal depots.
According to Bhandari, the crowd of the people seeking the gas cylinder is also quite noticeable as they get nearly Rs 300 discount in gas.
To get food items at a discounted price, the consumers should produce their citizenship certificate or any other certificate issued by the government.
No discount on home delivery
The Food Management and Trading Company (FMTC) has been selling food at discount only from its sales outlets.
Sharmila Neupane, information officer of the company, said rice and Karnali beans are being sold at discounted prices from Ramshahpath, Thapathali, Nakhkhu and Suryabinayak.
According to her, Aruwa Moto Rice, Aruwa Makwanpur Rice, Aruwa Sona Masino Rice, Steam Sona Masino Rice, Aruwa Medium Rice, Steam Ranjit Rice, Steam Jira Masino Rice, and Karnali bean are being sold at 20 percent discount.
Consumers also order food online and over the phone. However, to get a discount, one should go to the designated sales outlets.
Even though both the companies offer discounts on food, many people living in the capital have not been able to benefit from this facility. After the government offered a 20 percent discount on some items, people in different districts of the country are also contacting these companies asking how to avail of this facility.
Consumers have begun to express dissatisfaction, saying the discount is given only for propaganda rather than to benefit the larger community.
“I heard that the government will give a discount on food, but I don’t know where to get that discount. The shops in front of our house say they do not know about such provisions,” Shanta Chaudhary, an inhabitant from Bouddha said.
Consumers are also complaining about not getting discounts on home delivery. They complain that the discount is not fair as the transportation is restricted.
“The discount has proved merely propaganda for various reasons. Firstly, one has to reach the depot to get the discount offer,” the consumers complain, “When vehicular movements are restricted, how can a person reach the depot located far from our houses? The discount seems to be only for those close to the depot. Secondly, the quantity one gets in discount is too less if weighed over hourslong walk and queuing one has to undergo to get it.”
Consumers also complained that the so-called discount is discriminatory as the poor and marginalized living far from the depots are deprived of this facility.
If consumers of Kathmandu Valley face such problems, what might be the situation of people living in remote areas?