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The Bengali Potatocracy

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Being in the bureaucracy might train you for all seasons and random exigencies, but selling potatoes? That, however, has not stopped the West Bengal government from turning clerks from some of its departments and the West Bengal Essential Commodities Supplies Corporation into potato vendors. Along with sacks of potatoes, weighing scales and calculators, they are being sent to markets to sell the vegetable.

The blame for this peculiar situation rests on crop output fall which has led to prices jumping from Rs 10 to 12 a kg to Rs 18-20. Since potato is ubiquitous in Bengali dishes, public anger is palpable. The state’s response has, therefore, been to buy the vegetable in bulk from cold storages and sell it at Rs 13 per kg.

The government has set up over 100 temporary stalls in markets all over the state with a dozen in and around Kolkata. Expectedly, the government servants manning these stalls are having a tough time with customers demanding more than the 2 kg per head quota and wrangling over the quality of potatoes.