LAHORE: The Punjab government has allocated Rs9 billion for the Ramazan package to provide subsidised food to the people of the province, stated Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Around 318 Ramazan bazaars have been set up in the province, whereas model bazaars have also been temporarily converted.
To serve free food at Sehri and Iftar timings, more than 2,000 madni dastarkhwans have been set up across the province.
The chief minister vowed to oversee all arrangements personally. He said every single penny of the package would be spent to facilitate deserving people. Shehbaz suggested stern action against hoarders and profiteers. He said that no compromise would be made on the quality of products. Around Rs8.78 billion would be spent on wheat through the Ramazan package and this subsidy would reduce prices at these bazaars by 30%.
He added various agriculture fair price shops have also been established to ensure that pulses, dates, apples and bananas are being sold at least Rs20 less than open market rates. Cooking oil, ghee, grains, egg and sugar would also be provided at subsidised rates.
Shehbaz also presided over a meeting to review the security situation during the holy month. He directed officials to improve security arrangements and adopt all necessary measures to ensure peace.
Furthermore, he directed officials to beef up security at mosques, churches, shrines and other places of worship. He ordered the cabinet committee on law and order to review the security situation on a daily basis.
Struggle to control rates
The Ramazan subsidy package had reduced the prices of essential commodities in makeshift markets as government officials and politicians are frequently visiting to ensure implementation.
However, prices could not be ensured in open markets across the city as seasonal fruits and vegetables were being sold at regular rates. A number of citizens complained of profiteering by vendors in the open markets due to the government’s focus on makeshift markets. Muhammad Mohsin, a Township resident, pointed out different prices of a particular commodity in a single market.
Another citizen highlighted that the prices of melon, falsa, banana, apple, plum and other seasonal fruits had skyrocketed. “The whole government hierarchy, from the chief minister to the district administration, is claiming maximum relief for people during the holy month, but traders have manipulated prices of almost all commodities,” he said.
Lahore Mayor Colonel (Retd) Mubashir Javed said the government had made special arrangements in Ramazan markets to provide substantial subsidy on 17 essential items. He said prices were remarkably low in these makeshift markets when compared to those of open market. Even this Ramazan, the government will provide subsidy on imported banana and apple as both commodities were off-season.
Mubashir said that out of total 31 Ramazan markets, 12 had air-conditioning even in surrounding areas like Jalo More and Shadbagh.
“Special duties have been assigned to government officials for these markets and I will try to maintain good product quality, low prices and excessive supply during the whole month.”
He assured that the government had increased the number of price control magistrates and given them special powers to regulate rates. Mubashir said there were clear orders from the chief minister to tackle hoarding and profiteering. Price control magistrates were imposing penalties on profiteers and registering cases against them. “Pakistan is a developing country, there is much inefficiency in the system, but the government is trying its level best to control the price hike and facilitate citizens,” he concluded.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2017.