I-T dept busts Nashik onion car­tel that made India weep

DNA (Delhi) - - FRONT PAGE - Sud­hir Suryawan­shi sud­hir_s@dnain­dia.net

Nashik: In­come Tax raids on seven largest onion traders in Nashik has busted the car­tel that was con­trol­ling India’s onion trade. Lasal­gaon, near Nashik, is the cen­ter of whole­sale onion trade in India and con­trols the retail rate of the vegetable widely used in cook­ing. High rates of onion are known to trig­ger po­lit­i­cal de­feats, and there­fore gov­ern­ment agen­cies are now closely watch­ing the mar­ket here. The agen­cies no­ticed an ab­nor­mal rise in the prices of the root vegetable at the whole­sale mar­ket and found that a few traders pur­chased the onions at lower rates and then sold them at four to five times that rate. The traders, Om­prakash Ranka, Kan­ti­lal Su­rana, So­han Seth Bandh, among oth­ers, were kept un­der watch and even­tu­ally raided on Tues­day night. “The mar­kets, that re­ceive 500 to 600 trucks of onions every day, have been shut since Wed­nes­day and are likely to open only on Mon­day.

Trucks from here go di­rectly to ma­jor mar­kets and so sup­ply is by and large un­af­fected,” said an of­fi­cial. “We will know the larger im­pact of the raids only later.”

The raids how­ever caused the rates to plum­met as much as 35 per­cent from an ar­ti­fi­cial high. “Till July 24, onions were sold at Rs 500 to Rs 800 per quin­tal,” said a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial. “The prices started surg­ing sud­denly in Au­gust, and rose to Rs 2500 to Rs 2650 per quin­tal. This sud­den rise set off alarm bells.”

The of­fi­cial said they had rea­son to be­lieve that prices would con­tinue to rise and hence be­gan to mon­i­tor the mar­ket.

“We found that these traders had cre­ated ar­ti­fi­cial short­age and made prof­its that were way be­yond what was be­ing shown in the books. The I-T crack­down will en­sure that traders re­main un­der con­trol,” said a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial.

Lasal­gaon onion mar­ket is one of the big­gest mar­kets on Asia and 35 per­cent of India’s onion trade takes place there. “We are get­ting 80-100 truck­loads of onions every day,” said Ashok Walunj, a trader.

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