KARACHI: Crisis was averted on Wednesday after action was taken against dairy farmers attempting to illegally raise the price of milk in the city. Due to the action, the inflated prices were not put into effect.
On Wednesday, fresh milk was sold at Rs85 per litre, as per the government approved price. This is despite a dairy farmers’ group announcing a price of Rs90 per litre on Tuesday night. The city administration promptly rushed into action and blocked this move by taking the farmers into custody and registering an FIR against them for illegally inflating the price of milk, interfering in official works and disturbing the peace.
The farmers were later released on personal bond after protests by their colleagues and the blocking of roads. The farmers were also able to obtain bail.
The farmers’ attempt to raise the rate of milk was in violation of the Price Control Act as well as the Sindh High Court’s orders. The constitutional application 5943/2015, submitted by the Consumer Committee MT International, is being heard by the SHC. According to petitioner Imran Shahzad, the next hearing will be held on February 19.
Due to the hearing of the application in the SHC, Karachi Commissioner Ejaz Ahmed Khan had dismissed the famers’ proposed price hike during a meeting on February 2. However, the farmers took matters into their own hands and announced that the price of milk would be increased, which is contempt of the court’s order.
During the upcoming SHC hearing, an appeal for contempt of court proceedings against the dairy farmers responsible for the price hike will be submitted.
Meanwhile, a group of dairy farmers, wholesalers and retailers have submitted a written declaration to the commissioner house, in which it has been assured that the milk is being sold at the government-approved rate all over the city. The declaration was submitted by dairy farmer Sikander Nagori, wholesaler Junaid and retailer Khalil. However, no declarations have been submitted by Haji Akhtar or Shakir Omar, the heads of the entities that had announced the price hike, regarding following the government approved milk prices.
Meanwhile, the Consumer Rights Protection Council chairperson, Shakeel Baig has demanded the city district government authorities and Sindh government take strict action against the entities responsible for the illegal price hike. The authority to set the price of basic commodities such as milk rests with the controller of general of prices.
The daily milk demand for domestic purposes is estimated to be around 50 billion litres. A Rs1 increase in the price places a burden of Rs5 million on the consumers while the Rs20 per litre hike would cost consumers Rs100 million. The rise in the price of milk would also send the prices of dairy products such as ice cream, butter, yoghurt and lassi, soaring.
A meeting at the commissioner’s office was also held on Wednesday, during which the city’s deputy commissioners were instructed to ensure milk was sold at the government approved rate in their jurisdictions.
The SHC recently rejected a request to order the Rangers to act against retailers who were not reducing milk prices. The court issued notices to the Karachi commissioner and all deputy commissioners to explain what steps were taken by them in this regard, directing them to submit their replies by February 19.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by Shahzad seeking reduction in prices of dairy products and establishment of a local taskforce to regulate their prices.
In his plea, the petitioner said that the authorities concerned were fixing the prices of dairy products by not following the procedure provided under the Price Control and Prevention of Profiteering and Hoarding Act, 1977.
He recalled that the high court had, in August 2016, directed the authorities concerned to form a mechanism to control and maintain the prices of dairy products. However, milk prices were increased in violation of the court’s earlier order, he alleged.