ALREADY hit by spiralling cost of living, many less fortunate Hindus are now finding it financially difficult to fulfil their religious obligations due to the unrealistic increase in the prices of prayer items.
In this regard, many devotees – especially those in the B40 category – are worried and upset to see a sudden increase in prices of many basic prayer items, according to Penang Hindu Association (PHA) president P. Murugiah.
This comes about as soon after Deepavali was celebrated recently on Nov 12, Hindus are in now in the midst of preparing for another two major religious festivals, namely the Kantha Shasthi which is currently being observed until this Saturday (Nov 18) and Thaipusam which will be celebrated on Jan 21 next year.
In response to the predicaments voiced by consumers, PHA along with the Consumer Association of Penang (CAP) have jointly carried out a random survey on the prices of prayer items in several retail shops in Penang island and in the mainland.
“The analysis of the prices of 18 prayer items between November 2022 and November 2023 showed a marked increase in the price for all the items – of which the most significant increase was that for Vanaspati oil which rose from RM89.00 to RM200.00 per 20-kilo tin or a staggering 56% increase,” lamented Murugiah in a media statement.
Elsewhere betel nuts saw a 55% increase from RM10/kg to RM22/kg while dahlias and betel leaves each saw a 50% increase in price.
“When asked about the rationale for the price increase, the retailers gave the excuse that it was normal for the importers, manufacturers and wholesalers to increase their prices of these items during Hindu festivals,” revealed Murugiah.
“They also attributed the price increase to the prices of raw materials and transportation as well as the fluctuations in the foreign exchange rates and the increase in workers’ salaries.”
Taking these into consideration such development, PHA and CAP have strongly urged the Domestic Trade and Costs of Living Ministry as well as the Prime Minister’s Department to look into complaints raised by the devotees and to act against the importers, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers for unwarranted increase in the prices of the basic prayer items.
“PHA and CAP would also like to suggest to the relevant authorities to create a benchmark price for the prayer items in order to prevent unreasonable price increase during festive seasons,” suggested Murugiah.
“Having said this, PHA and CAP advise all Hindus to exercise prudence and to spend their money wisely when buying the prayer items.” – Nov 15, 2023