A black market in corrugated zinc sheets has spread amid a sharp rise in demand for the roofing sheets for the rehabilitation of earthquake victims.
The Department of Commerce and Supply Management (DoCSM) took action against a number of businesses for overcharging customers during its market monitoring on Tuesday.
The inspection also revealed the possibility of the involvement of officials of zinc sheet factories in market irregularities.
The DoCSM caught Om Prakash Traders of Pachali selling zinc sheets at Rs7,000 for a 50-kg bundle when the maximum retail price is Rs6,040. Hari Narayan Belbase, director of the department, said they handed over the shop’s proprietor Santa Lal Sah to the Maharajgunj Police Circle for legal action under Black Marketing and Some Other Social Offenses and Punishment Act 1975.
Similarly, the department seized poor quality zinc sheets imported from India. They were being shipped in a truck loaded with sand, according to the DoCSM. Belbase said the imported zinc sheets were of a lower gauge than the standard set by the government.
The department also seized a batch of zinc sheets manufactured by Arati Steels, a domestic company. “The zinc sheets did not have the required minimum thickness of 0.30 mm,” said Belbase. According to him, they have sent samples for testing to the Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology. He added that the department had called an executive of Arati Steels to provide an explanation.
Likewise, the DoCSM confiscated a shipment of Hulas brand zinc sheets being transported in a truck bearing licence plate number Na 2 Kha 8447.
According to the department, it had launched an investigation after finding out that the products were also being sold by unauthorised traders.
The department’s report shows that Om Ganapati Traders and Krishna Scrapes of Bara district were found to be supplying Hulas zinc sheets in the Kathmandu Valley. “These firms have been found selling low quality zinc sheets and charging up to Rs600-700 extra per bundle,” said Belbase.
Following the April 25 earthquake, the government has instructed zinc sheet manufacturers to sell their products only through their authorised dealers at fixed prices. The department began keeping a closer watch on the market after the order was issued.
“We will summon the proprietors of the two shops along with a Hulas executive for questioning before reaching a decision on what action to take against them,” said Belbase.
Meanwhile, the DoCSM has allowed Sagar Enterprises, a hardware shop in Balaju, to resume operations. It had sealed the outlet on June 28 for overcharging customers.
Belbase said that they had allowed the shop to reopen as it possessed large stocks of badly needed zinc sheets, but that legal proceedings against it would continue.
The department has taken action against nine hardware shops for overcharging customers on zinc sheets since the April 25 earthquake. Among them, two are from Nuwakot, three from Dhading, one from Kavrepalanchok and one from Chuchchepati and two from Balaju, Kathmandu .