Bukit Batok NTUC FairPrice infant milk powder story: Murali Pillai sets the record straight

To begin on a down note: Stealing infant milk powder to sell for profit is a thing for some dishonest people who don’t necessarily even have kids.

It’s not endemic. But common enough that staff at NTUC FairPrice’s Bukit Batok and Boon Lay outlets have shelved those big chonky tins of infant milk powder behind locked plastic screens.

What this means is that you’ll need supermarket staff to unlock these shelves each time you want some.

It’s not an ideal state of affairs, frankly. Regardless, it’s better to take swift action now than go “We should have done this, oh dear” later.

And there are some confused and/ or bad faith readings of this measure out there.

What’s good, though, is that Singaporeans have spontaneously reached out, offering to buy milk powder for needy Bukit Batok residents.

MP Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok SMC) went down to his FairPrice outlet in his constituency yesterday (Jan 19) to set the record straight — and to show people where there’s help.

“We will do what we can”

“Some people, understandably, are getting the impression that there are people out here who can’t even afford milk powder for their children,” explained Mr Pillai at the Bukit Batok FairPrice.

“Now, I have confirmed with the police that is not the case. The typical shoplifter that FairPrice is concerned about are people who steal to make a profit.”

“That means do the selling and then making a profit,” he emphasised.  

“Certainly not a situation which many readers are concerned about.”

In other words, it’s not a Jean Valjean situation that’s happening. More the illegitimate desire for quick profit over the legitimate needs of others like customers and hardworking supermarket staff.

At the same time, there is help for Bukit Batok’s needy.

“We actually have a very established system,” said MP Murali.

“The South West CDC Mayor Low Yen Ling has a good number of programs helping low-income families. I’m in touch with her on this specific matter.”

These include the WeCare Plus @ South West referrals. Under these, different agencies work with partners and volunteers to provide bursaries and programmes which enhance social mobility for, and look after the specific needs of, residents (click here to sign up or to pass on the form).  

“In particular, we have a program where we link up with a milk producer to purchase not just infant milk but even adult milk at a substantial discount for low-income families,” he said.

“So we will do what we can.”

This is on top of all-of-Singapore help from the PAP Government.

“Of course, the Government also has come up with grants and concessions,” said Mr Pillai.

“You know about the CDC grants of S$300 this month. This follows what happened last month, when we had a S$700 grant for low-income families.”

There are also regular job fairs like the SGUnited-e2i Jobs & Skills Discovery @ Jurong Clementi, which was held at Bukit Batok Community Club in May last year —a literal three minute’s walk away from that particular FairPrice.

And Mr Pillai conducts his Meet-the-People sessions 7.30pm every Friday at the Bukit Batok West PCF Sparkletots; he’s operated community help sessions like this since 2016.

Source: Murali Pillai/ Facebook

Doing what we can indeed.

Let’s create a virtuous circle

“I hope the misleading impressions can stop,” said MP Murali.

“Because otherwise what will happen is that people who are doing good work would be thwarted.”

Hr specifically praised the good Samaritans who contacted him so that they could help strangers.

“Quite a number of them have actually reached out to me, offering to buy for our residents,” he said about the milk powder.   

“So I’m grateful to these well-meaning persons who reached out to me.”

Cover photo credit: Murali Pillai/ Facebook, SFA and Towfiqu barbhuiya, Pexels)