Middlemen, traders ‘lock up’ government’s monitoring team in Kalimati

Kathmandu, August 20

When consumer rights activist Madhav Timilsina accompanied the government team to monitor Kalimati Fruits and Vegetables Market at 3:00 am today, little did he know that a scuffle with the vegetable brokers would result in the inspection team being ‘locked up’ requiring intervention from the police.

“In my eight years of market monitoring, today was the first time that such an incident occurred,” said Timilsina, who is also the president of Consumer Rights Investigation Forum, adding the incident points at the blatant disregard for the existing rules and regulations.

The scuffle between the 11-member probe team — mostly comprising members of Department of Supply Management and Protection of Consumers Interest, Timilsina and the local police — and the middlemen broke out at around 7:00 am, when the team seized two vehicles laden with vegetables after the transporters failed to produce the purchase receipts.

As a group of middlemen, along with traders, overpowered the inspection team and locked them up inside the vegetable market, police sought reinforcements to bring the situation under control, Timilsina told THT.

“The situation was brought under control only after three more truckloads of police personnel arrived at the scene at around 9:00 am,” he said.

The police team ‘rescued’ members of the investigation team and arrested Bharat Khatiwada and Ujwal Dhungana from the scene for creating a ruckus and obstructing the monitoring.

While Dhungana is a middleman between vegetable farmers and traders at Kalimati market, Khatiwada is the general secretary of Federation of Fruit and Vegetable Entrepreneurs Nepal.

According to Chandra Prasad Ghimire, secretary at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, the duo along with seized vehicles are in police custody. Action will be taken against those arrested as per the provisions in the Muluki Ain, which has provisions ranging from jail time, fine, or both, to compensation. An earlier government study had revealed severe discrepancies in the amount that farmers get paid and the price charged for their products in the market by traders.

Stating that the government has already deployed study teams in major farming areas to get a clearer picture of the situation facing farmers, Ghimire said errant middlemen and traders would soon face the music. “We are serious about ensuring that poor farmers are not exploited by unscrupulous middlemen and traders and the rule of law is maintained.”

Meanwhile, the FEFVEN has condemned the arrests made today and demanded the quick release of those detained.

Issuing a statement, Khem Prasad Ghimire, president of FEFVEN, claimed that traders were not involved in defying the government’s inspection and threatened that they would halt the supply of vegetables in the market if the duo were not released immediately.

“The FEFVEN is simply trying to cover up their earlier mistake,” asserted Timilsina, adding, “Otherwise, how would their general secretary be arrested for enticing others at the scene?”