A total of 307 Ramazan Bazaars and 3,407 ‘fair price shops’ offering subsidised food items and 352 dastarkhwans offering free iftari have become operational in the province for the holy month.
According to guidelines issued to the district government, the bazaars and shops are selling 27 essentials commodities (fruit, vegetable, grams, flour and sugar) at controlled prices. The Industries and Commerce and Investment Departments are monitoring the operations and demand and supply of goods at the bazaars, an official said on the condition of anonymity. The Punjab government had planned to establish a total of 325 Ramazan Bazaars, of which 307 have successfully opened on the first day of the month, he said. Last year, the government had planned to set up 400 bazaars, but was only able to establish 286 by the end of Ramazan.
Lahore division has the most bazaars at 55, followed by 50 in Gujranwala, 46 in Faisalabad, 37 in Rawalpindi, 36 in Sargodha, 24 in Bahawalpur, 22 in Dera Ghazi Khan, 20 in Multan and 17 in Sahiwal.
The 352 dastarkhwans put on free sehar and iftar meals. The government has set up 78 dastarkhwans in Lahore division, 62 in Multan, 45 in Rawalpindi, 38 in Gujranwala, 29 in Dera Ghazi Khan, 28 in Faisalabad, 28 in Sahiwal, 24 in Sargodha, and 20 in Bahawalpur division.
Of the 3,407 fair price shops, 2,743 are within the Ramzan Bazaars, 306 have been designated by the Agriculture Department, and 1,358 have been notified in ordinary markets.
District price control committees are responsible for notifying the prices of food items in Ramazan Bazaars after consulting with representatives of traders and retailers. The district administration has been directed to minimize the role of middlemen in the supply of commodities. The Agriculture and Livestock Departments are to conduct regular checks of the quality of fruits, vegetables, meat and poultry products available the district officer (labour) is to ensure that verified commercial weights and measures are used in the markets.
The district governments were earlier directed to seek donations from corporations as well as private individual for the setting up of dastarkhwans, and to arrange free sehar and iftar meals at hospitals, railways stations, labour colonies and katchi abadis.
The Punjab government has already conferred magisterial powers upon field officers to check prices, hoarding and black-marketing and profiteering during Ramazan.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2011.