Inflation dampens Ramazan spirit

Populace forced to turn towards dastarkhwans, seek free rations

Aamir Khan April 04, 2023


It would not be amiss to label this Ramazan as the costliest one in the past few decades, as unprecedented levels of inflation have decimated the purchasing power of the people, who are turning towards free meal centres or organisations distributing rations, to be able to fast.

In the country’s most populated city, the poor and working class are distraught that every day brings a new increase in commodity prices, which makes it impossible for them to stick to their Ramazan budget.

Consequently, many have given up on their desire to have a filling Suhoor and Iftar, instead opting for whatever meal is the cheapest to put together.

For Akram, who runs a vegetable stall in the port city and makes between Rs 800 to Rs 1,200 per day, the only affordable meal is bread and curry.

“We are a family of five and a proper Iftari or Sehri has become a distant dream for us.

Hence, we start our fast with roti and tea; and break it with roti and curry,” he lamented.

While the essence of Ramazan is being able to feel the daily plight of the destitute, Akram never imagined that economic conditions would deteriorate to an extent that he would be grateful for the precious little he had to eat.

Begum Muqqadas Khan can relate to Akram, as this is the first Ramazan in her memory that she has not been able to arrange Sehri and Iftari essentials.

“With the high electricity and gas bills, we can barely afford to buy rations now.

So we have to make do with either rice or pulses for iftar.” However, others like Yasmeen Khalida, a resident of Punjab Colony, who works as a maid, do not even have the luxury of making do with whatever little they have.

“I have to solely rely on the leftover food I get from the houses I work at for keeping a fast,” said Yasmeen.

And yet, there is a segment of the populace, amongst the mammoth headcount in Karachi, which is even more worse off than Yasmeen, as it has no option but to turn to dastarkhwans.

Amongst this segment is Shujaat, who is a daily wage labourer and was trying to get a meal for his family and himself at a free meal centre in Kharadar.

“The money I make is not enough to feed my family of five, so I have to come here every day to take some food home, which we then share,” a visibly upset Shujaat informed.

However, Shujaat is not alone in his plight, as Asif Iqbal, a philanthropist who organises Ramazan dastarkhwans, reported a significant upsurge in the number of people visiting for free meals this year.

Asif told The Express Tribune that the economic conditions had truly battered the populace of Karachi, evidenced by the droves of people visiting the various dastarkhwans across the city.

Seconding Asif, another philanthropist from the city, Ahmed Raza Tayyab, said, “the number of people visiting mosques and imambargahs for food at Sehri and Iftari is an unprecedented amount.” With this increase in the number of people looking for a free meal or free rations, the costs for philanthropists and welfare organisations, given the double-digit inflation, have increased manifold as well.

“Distributing food and rations amongst the destitute has become an incredibly pricey exercise this Ramazan,” complained Haji Salman, a resident of Clifton, who does a free rations drive every year during the Holy Month.

Agreeing with Salman, a volunteer of a charitable organisation, Imran Akram, informed that not only had the prices of free rations and food gone up but the demand had gone up as well, which meant that organisations like his were incurring massive costs and would not be able to sustain the free ration drives during the entirety of Ramazan.

Sharjeel Naeem Khan, a grocery shop owner who prepares ration bags on order, testified that Imran’s claims vis a vis hefty costs were correct.

“Prices of ration bags have gone up by Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000 due to the increase in flour, sugar, oil, and lentil rates.” Resultantly, Imran’s warning that charity organisations will not be able to sustain the ration drives this Ramazan, is already coming true, merely a week into the Holy Month.

“It was easy to get free ration last year but this time around the lines are long and the quantity of commodities given in the bag have decreased,” grumbled Farzah, who was standing in queue for a free ration drive.


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