KATHMANDU, March 22: The government will book those who hoard the goods with the intention to sell them in the black market, said Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies Lekh Raj Bhatta.
Due to the COVID-19 panic, the surgical face masks, hand sanitizers and other essential goods such as gasoline are in short supply in the capital.
Many black marketers have used the opportunity to hoard the goods to create an artificial shortage so that they could sell them at a relatively high price and earn an undue profit, the surgical masks were sold at 15 times higher price due to the artificial shortage.
The Black-Marketing Act 2032 states that any person responsible for creating an artificial shortage in the market can face up to five years in prison with a fine or with both. Likewise, if the producer, importer or main distributor or any of his/her dealer or agent commits the same offense in regard to the goods, he/she can face up to ten years in prison with a fine or with both.
“If you (customers) find anyone committing such offense (black-marketing), please inform us. They will be punished,” said Minister Bhatta.
“The shortage has led to many unscrupulous traders stockpile goods so that they can take advantage of the short supply and gain profit by selling them at a high price.
“But we have mobilized our team to check the black market. Nobody will walk free from such offense,” he added.
The police have launched a crackdown on the black market and artificial shortage created by the traders. In the past week, police confiscated over a million surgical face masks that were stocked in various places in Kathmandu to sell in the black market.
According to Kathmandu Chief District Office, they have confiscated 804,000 masks from Satungal and 106,800 masks from Kapan and arrested five people including two Indian nationals.
The confiscated masks will be handed to the state-owned Sajha Swasthya Sewa Cooperative and will be sold from four medical stores of the cooperative.
Bhatta also said that the government has managed enough supplies in a way no essential goods will be in short supply in the market for the next few months.
“The government has stocked enough goods such as foods, medicine, salt and sugar. You can visit Food Management and Trading Company and Salt Trading Corporation. If you become unable to find essential goods in the market, dial 1137, the government will fulfill your demands,” he added.
According to him, the government on Saturday formed a committee to control the shortage and make the essential goods easily available in the market.
“The committee comprises of representatives from three security bodies, health ministry, Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce & Industries, Chamber of Commerce and Forum for protection of Consumer Rights. We are working with special preparation,” said the minister who is the head of the committee.
The government is also opening fair price shops in five different locations of the valley to counter the artificial shortage and price hikes, according to him.