Braving the scorching heat, Lucky Akther, wife of a rickshaw-puller, waited in a long queue for several hours to buy oil, onion and lentil at subsidised prices from a truck selling the goods of the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) at Boubazar of Hajipara in the capital.

But she was not lucky enough to buy essentials on Wednesday as all stock of goods in the truck ran out fast because of the huge crowd of buyers.

"The prices of oil, onion and pulse have gone up so high in the market that it has become difficult for the poor like me to buy. So, I came here with the hope to purchase these items at relatively cheaper prices. But I only wasted around three hours here standing in the line as everything had run out before I reached the sellers," an utterly frustrated Lucky told UNB.

Shompa Begum, a single mother of three kids who works as domestic help, had much more bitter experiences than Lucy's.

"I waited for several hours yesterday (Tuesday) to buy some TCB goods, but returned home empty-handed. I also failed to buy the essential items today (Wednesday) as those had run out fast before I could reach the frontline despite two hours of wait," she said with a deep breath in the city's Malibagh Bazar area.

Shompa said it is now difficult for her to buy these items from the market at exorbitant prices. "Believe me, I couldn't cook any curry for the last two days for lack of oil and onion. We took rice with boiled mashed potato and green chili and dried food. How'll we survive if the prices of essentials don't come down?"

She alleged that many men forcibly occupy the frontlines and buy items managing the sellers.

Shompa said women should be allowed to stand in separate queues or a rule needs to be there that one woman can buy the goods from the truck after a man to ease the hassles of female buyers.

Like Lucky and Shompa, many poor people are failing to buy essential items at the subsidised rates due to inadequate supply by TCB against the growing demand.

The skyrocketing prices of essentials such as rice, oil, lentil and onion, have dealt a double blow to the poor and the middle-income groups who have been already hit hard by the fallout of the Covid pandemic, forcing them to rush to the open market sale (OMS) run by TCB Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) truck to purchase these goods at subsidised prices.

Ruhul Amin, a nightguard of Rampura area, said he could buy oil, rice, lentil, onion and sugar from a truck selling the TCB goods after waiting for several hours near Rampura Bridge. "TCB's goods have now become a golden deer due to the soaring prices of the essential items in the regular market."

He alleged that half of the amount of onion he bought from a TCB's truck was rotten. "This an unfair treatment to us. Rotten goods can't be sold by the government."

Private service-holder Delwar Hossain said he is in a fix to run his five-member family with his limited income as the prices of all the necessary items have increased alarmingly. "No one can understand the suffering we're going through now. It's difficult for us to cope with the overheated market of commodities. We're now being forced to stand in lines to buy goods from the TCB trucks."

Delwar is not alone as many low and middle-income people are feeling the pinch of unusual price hikes of essentials across the country. The retailers are raising the prices of daily essential commodities, including rice, pulses, oil and sugar regularly showing an excuse of short supply.

In such a situation, the demand for commodities supplied by TCB has increased sharply. As the goods are less than the demand, the sale ends by noon.

TCB dealers said they are being supplied with very inadequate goods to meet the demands of huge buyers.

Visiting different spots in the city, it was seen that thousands of people were waiting for hours to purchase the goods from TCB dealers to ease the shock of ongoing price hikes. The queues get bigger within minutes after the arrival of trucks.

Talking to UNB, TCB dealer Jahangir said usually low-income people, including day-labourers, rickshaw-pullers, drivers or housemaids came to buy goods from them earlier. "But now the middle-class people are also gathering to buy goods from us. It's difficult for us to handle such pressure from such a huge number of buyers. Some people become violent when our stocks run out."

Akkas Uddin, a TCB goods seller in Tejgaon area, said they get 1580 kg of different types of goods every day that are sold out within two hours. "The supply of goods needs to be increased to meet the huge demand."

Contacted, TCB Chairman Md Ariful Hassan said they are selling goods at lower prices in different points in Dhaka city in 150 trucks, which is only enough for 40,000 families.

"Each truck gets TCB goods like sugar, pulse, and onion and soybean oil for 250 to 300 families. We'll try to cover all the needy people. We need cooperation from the city corporation councilors' so that our goods reach the real poor and needy people," Ariful said.

He said police stations have been asked to ensure discipline at the TCB's selling points in their respective areas.

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