A wave of panic buying before and after the lockdown in India due to the novel coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a shortage of essential items in Chandigarh.

Essential items like branded wheat flour and milk powder have nearly vanished from Chandigarh markets, while some shops are selling it at much higher rates than the maximum retail price.

Satpal Bansal, a grain wholesaler from Chandigarh, spoke to India Today TV and admitted that the two essential items are not available in the market.

“Two items branded wheat flour and milk powder is not available in the market. There is no shortage of other items. People indulged in hoarding and stocked groceries in huge quantities fearing that the lockdown,” Bansal said.

“People are going to the flour mills directly to get the wheat milled. The distributors of two leading flour brands have stopped taking orders as the supply chain has been broken.”

Though unbranded flour is available in all sectors of Chandigarh, it is being sold at much higher rates. For instance, 10 kg of flour was earlier available for Rs 250 but it has now increased by almost Rs 100-150.

India Today TV visited several localities in Chandigarh to check if other items were also being sold at a premium.

Several vegetable vendors, a chemist and a wheat flour mill and a grocery shop were open in one particular locality in Chandigarh. People from the locality told that branded wheat has “vanished” from stores.

“Green chillies are being sold at Rs 200/kg and peas at Rs 60/kg,” Ramkali, a local from the area, said.

People complained that there was rampant black marketing of wheat flour and the shop-owners were charging “outrageous” prices.

A medical store owner complained that there is a shortage in supply of medicines following the lockdown. The stockists were also stressing for cash payments as the banks are shut.

“The stockists used to deliver the orders on our shop before the curfew, but now they are asking for cash payments as the banks are closed. We have to bring our own stock on cash payments. There is a shortage of medicines as we are not getting the supplies following the lockdown,” Ankush Attri, a medical store owner, said.

The lockdown and curfew has also hit the other supplies as well. Some retailers who requested anonymity said they were getting reduced supply of bread due to shortage of flour.

A similar problem has gripped other states in the country as well and shopkeepers say they are forced to sell some essential items at higher prices due to acute shortage.

Some blame the lockdown for disruption in the supply chain while others say wholesalers are charging a bomb for some products. They now hope that the situation will become normal after April 14.

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