EDITORIAL: Take strong measures

The government should leave no stone unturned to take action against those who create artificial shortages of essential goods

The widespread fear of the coronavirus has led consumers to panic buying, and unscrupulous business people have taken undue advantage of the mass psyche, creating an artificial shortage of essential goods in the market. Even the developed countries, where essential daily commodities used to be readily available at the department stores and groceries in normal times, are facing an acute shortage of goods, including toilet paper, face masks and food items, due to panic buying. Although governments all over the world, including Nepal, have assured their people not to worry about the smooth supply of such goods, people seem to be alarmed by the growing incidents of deaths caused by COVID-19 that first emerged in China last December and has taken more than 150 countries and territories into its grip. The people are in a buying spree as all governments have told them to stay home, avoid unnecessary travel and keep the minimum distance with each other to avoid the possibility of contracting the virus.

he possibility of contracting the virus. The Nepali people are no exception when it comes to hoarding goods, largely because of the government’s weak monitoring of the market. Nepal is especially facing an artificial shortage of food, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), face masks, life-saving medicines, edible oil and even iodised salt in anticipation of a prolonged shortage of these goods should the spread of the virus continue unabated. Fear psychosis is the main reason why the consumers are stocking more food and other essential items than they actually need. Dishonest business people are minting money from black marketing of these essential goods, taking advantage of the precarious situation.

In its bid to crack down on the black marketing, the government raided three warehouses in the capital last week and seized around 1.2 million surgical face masks, including the largest ever quantity of 8.40 lakh face masks from one belonging to RD Suppliers at Satungal. All the suppliers were found selling a face mask for more than Rs 30 although its market price is just Rs 5. Police said the seized face masks would be sold to the public at Rs 5 through public health bodies. In what could be a very harsh measure, the government has even warned that it would mobilise the army if LPG dealers did not stop creating an artificial shortage of cooking gas. Nepal Oil Corporation has clearly said there is enough supply of LPG, and more LPG bullets are on their way to the country from India. In the meantime, Nepal Electricity Authority has also asked the consumers to make maximum use of electric stoves, or induction cookers, to avoid the shortage of cooking gas as per unit of electricity has now become cheaper. At the same time, consumers should believe in the government agencies in times of crisis and stop panic buying, which only instills unnecessary anxiety among the consumers. The business community, which is seeking an economic relief package from the government for its survival as a result of the unforeseen circumstance, should also cooperate with the government in dealing with the crisis facing the world. The government should leave no stone unturned to take strong action against those who create artificial shortages of essential goods.

Vultures are back

It’s good to learn that different species of vultures are making a comeback in Dailekh in mid-west Nepal. Their depleting population in the mid-hills and mountains of Nepal in the recent decades had been a cause for worry for environmentalists. The decline in the number of vultures poses ecological threats, as it brings with it a sudden collapse of the highly-efficient natural disposal system. In their absence, carcasses rot in the fields, leading to outbreaks of diseases and contaminated water. It also allows other scavenging species, such as stray dogs and crows, to multiply, but unlike the vulture, they are known to serve as carriers of pathogens from the carcasses.

The use of diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug to treat cattle, has shown to be fatal to vultures as consuming the carcass of such animals leads to kidney damage and other health complications, ultimately leading to death. Consequently, diclofenac has been banned for veterinary use in Nepal since August 2006. A replacement drug, meloxicam, has been introduced, which is not harmful for vultures. The reappearance of the vultures in Dailekh could very well be a result of the ban on diclofenac in Nepal.