Low quality and high prices are keeping buyers away from the sasta bazaars (special markets) set up by the city government at different points to provide essential commodities at subsidised rates during the fasting month. Only a handful of buyers have been seen at these bazaars, ironically due to the relatively high rates of fruits and other edible commodities there.
Shoppers seldom visit the special markets. The difference in rates seems to be too insignificant to attract the buyers for the satisfaction of the stallholders.
“We were asked to set up stalls for fruits, vegetables and other daily use items by the district government, but sitting at the sasta bazaars has only been a waste of time in the absence of customers,” said Muhammad Wali, a stallholder at the temporary bazaar near Nawaz Sharif Park.
The stallholders were assured of good sales, but the first two days of the holy month has shown a discouraging response from buyers, he added.
“Most of these bazaars are temporary and are set up at places that are unsuitable for business, said Aqeel Ahmed, who sells grocery items in the bazaar near Liaqat Bagh.
He said though commodity rates are less than that of the open market, but the difference was not enough to encourage buyers to go out of the way and visit the temporary facilities.
“There is no difference of prices for apples, banana, peach and grapes at the sasta bazaars. Bananas are being sold for Rs250 to Rs300 a dozen and the rate for apples is in between from Rs200 to Rs300 per kilogram,” said Asad Abbasi, who visited the bazaar near Nawaz Sharif Park. The rate for grapes is unaffordable as the fruit is being sold for Rs350 per kg, he added.
The prices for onions, potatoes and some other vegetables are a bit lower in the sasta bazaars, but the quality of the commodities is not as good as in the open market, said Iqbal Malik, who was shopping in the bazaar near Liaqat Bagh.
On the other hand, vendors had their own issues. They say that the rates at the temporary facilities were being kept low but the bazaars were not placed in locations that would to attract buyers.
Separately, Rawalpindi District Coordination Officer (DCO) Saqib Zaffar directed the city’s traders to provide cheap, high quality items at sasta bazaars. In a meeting with traders’ representatives at his office, the DCO urged them to help the district government make the temporary bazaars a success.
The head of the district administration also warned them not to sell fruits and vegetables at inflated rates and urged consumers to file complaints against anyone charging inflated rates so that proper action could be taken against them.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2012.