Worried shoppers rushed to stores in many Indian states Friday to buy iodised salt packets, officials and locals said.
The panic shopping was triggered by rumours of impending salt shortage across the country with crowds throwing stores to take enough supplies home. The rumours about imminent salt scarcity was reported from Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, New Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai.
These rumours have come at a time when people are already perturbed over poor cash flow in the country after the Indian government’s announcement to demonetize currency notes of 500 and 1000 Indian rupees.
Reports said salt prices skyrocketed, with a packet weighing one kilogram sold between 3 US dollars (200 INR) to 6 US dollars (400 INR) in Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad district.
Ordinarily a kg of iodised salt cost 22 cents in India.
Despite assurances from local authorities dispelling salt shortages, people made a beeline at stores to make purchases and carry packets home.
Locals said some shopkeepers also panicked after hearing the rumours and closed their shops.
Police in Uttar Pradesh said strict action would be taken against people responsible for spreading rumours.
In New Delhi, police issued advisory and dispatched teams for patrolling to dispel rumours and inform the crowds outside stores that there was no shortage of salt in India.
India’s Minister for Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan said there was no shortage of salt and urged people not to heed to rumours.
“There is no scarcity of salt in the country and also no increase in its price. I appeal to the people not to pay attention to the rumours,” Paswan said.
“If somebody spreads the rumours of price rise of salt or sells it at high price, state government should immediately take stringent action,” he said.
In Mumbai, police urged people not to believe any rumours around shortage of essentials.
“There is no shortage of salt or any other necessary commodity nor any price hike information,” the Mumbai Police posted the advisory on it twitter page.
In 2013, rumours of an impending salt shortage led to panic-buying in India’s north-eastern states and parts of Bihar and West Bengal.