Govt fails to control soaring prices at Ramazan bazaars

Citizens complain about price hike, overcharging and unavailability of commodities

Our Correspondent May 13, 2019

LAHORE: Despite the instructions issued by the prime minister, the provincial and district administrations have failed to rein in the skyrocketing prices of essential commodities at Ramazan bazaars and the open market.

In order to facilitate the people, the government established Ramazan bazars in different areas of the city to provide citizens with essential commodities at subsidised rates.

However, reports of overcharging and the unavailability of different commodities are still on the rise. Further, many vendors have displayed inflated prices at their stalls, a gross violation of the official price list.

Several citizens have complained about the absurdly high prices of essential commodities which are continuously being jacked up by traders.

“Traders had started increasing the prices of items weeks before Ramazan. However, the government failed to take action against such individuals, giving them an opportunity to fleece citizens,” said Hanif Khan, a local.

He acknowledges that a few items are being sold at subsidized rates at stalls set up by the agriculture department. “However, the prices of all other items are equal to those in the open market,” he expressed. If a product is inexpensive, then its quality is most likely subpar, he said.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, a citizen, Muhammad Ilyas stated that the state has failed to control the prices and the quality of items at Ramazan bazars, where all arrangements are under the government's control.

The situation at the open market is worse as the government has little to no control over the rates and quality. "There is no system of price control, otherwise the situation would be different in both Ramazan bazars and the open market," he said.

A survey of the market by The Express Tribune revealed that the price of a 50-kilogramme sack of sugar has increased to Rs450 at a wholesale level. As a result, traders have increased the prices by five to seven rupees per kilogramme meaning that sugar is being sold for between Rs65 to Rs67 per kilogramme in the open market. A similar trend is also being witnessed in the rates of pulses, seasonal fruit and vegetables.

Further, the Utility Stores Corporation has failed to ensure the availability of wheat flour, pulses and sugar under the Ramazan package. Buying beverages, dates, rice, pulses, cooking oil and other essentials remains a distant dream for most citizens.

Meanwhile, the sale of adulterated and substandard food products is also on the rise. On Saturday, the Punjab Food Authority (PFA) discarded over 27,000 kilogrammes of frozen chicken from different brands.

An official from the authority said that the first phase of the campaign targeting frozen foods has completed. He said the authority took indiscriminate action against frozen meat companies in light of the laboratory report.

He added that the authority collected samples of frozen foods in April under the sampling schedule for 2019. However, several companies failed to meet the standards of the authority. He said that some companies have handed over their stock to the authority under a ‘sense of responsibility'.

PFA Director General Muhammad Usman said that the next laboratory analysis of frozen foods will be made in June. He added that PFA would check frozen meat products two times a year as per the annual sampling schedule. The authority is taking all possible measures and steps to ensure the provision of standard food, said Usman.

Officials directed to monitor prices

Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar directed the provincial administration to strictly monitor the prices of essential commodities in the open market. Issuing instructions to the administration and price control committees on Sunday, the CM said that the rates at Ramazan bazaars and in the open market should be regularly monitored to ensure the availability of essential commodities at government notified rates.

Along with the quality, the availability of items should also be ensured. An undue increase in rates will not be tolerated at any cost, he stated.

He directed officials concerned to take strict legal action against hoarders and those overcharging consumers and warned that those involved in profiteering will be dealt with strictly.

The administration and the departments concerned should continue their operation against such elements without discrimination, he said.

“It is the responsibility of the administration to ensure the availability of essential commodities at government notified rates,” the chief minister maintained. In order to provide people with relief, we have to work hard and take legal action against profiteers, he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2019.


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