City government wants permanent price control magistrates

CDGL has asked the Punjab government to appoint permanent magistrates to check prices in local markets.

Yasir Habib September 02, 2010

LAHORE: The city district government of Lahore (CDGL) has asked the Punjab government to appoint permanent magistrates to check prices in local markets, The Express Tribune has learnt.

Lahore’s district coordination officer (DCO) Sajjad Ahmed Bhutta and revenue commissioner Khusru Pervaiz have told the provincial government that permanent price control magistrates would do a better job than the 70 temporary magistrates that were meant to keep prices in check this Ramazan.

Sources in the CDGL said that senior officials in the local government believed that price control should be the provincial government’s responsibility because the former did not have the manpower or budget to handle it. They said the diffusion of magistrates’ powers to various local government authorities had made price control much tougher.

“Prices cannot be kept in check through temporary arrangements,” Bhutta told The Express Tribune. “The permanent solution lies in permanent magistrates. We need to revive the old magistracy system to curb the menace of profiteering and hoarding,” he said.

He said the temporary magistrates were fining and arresting five or six violators a day, but the punishments were too light to be an effective deterrent.

The temporary magistrates are mostly officers of grades 12 to 14 recruited from the labour and revenue departments of the CDGL, a food department official said. They lack experience, training, and even knowledge of the relevant laws, he said.

“Most magistrates do not visit the market themselves but send their subordinates, who bring the profiteers to the relevant offices. Then if the profiteer gives a bribe he is freed, or else he is fined and challaned,” he said

He said the arrest and imprisonment of over 80 people under the Price Control Act of 1977 was “a drop in the ocean”.

“The government assigned 11 PML-N parliamentarians to supervise and monitor the Ramazan Bazaars. I haven’t seen them in the field so far,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 2nd, 2010.


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