KARACHI: The advent of Ramazan, the highest earning season for retailers and wholesalers, brought with it a surge in the extortion slips to industrialists, businessmen and the owners of small shop. Even those operating makeshift stalls were not spared of the menace. The shop owners, on the other hand, have attempted to cover these losses by gouging on the pockets of unsuspecting customers who are being charged up to 30 per cent higher prices for everyday commodities.
In a bid to lessen the financial burdens on the populace, the city’s commissioner, Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, had directed officials to conduct raids on different general and utility stores to check if their prices were in accordance with those set by the government.
On Sunday, the Ferozabad assistant commissioner, Shahzeb Shaikh, conducted raids on several stores in the area, including the Imtiaz Supermarket at Awami Markaz, Naheed Supermarket and Chase Up at Shara-e-Qauideen, among others.
Ferozabad assistant commissioner, Shahzeb Shaikh, checked the listed prices of commodities against the official prices issued by the government in different superstores in the area. Shaikh raided the stores on Sunday, as part of the administration’s city-wide drive against profiteers in the wake of Ramazan. PHOTOS: ATHAR KHAN/ EXPRESS
“The administration has set goals to provide fair prices of meat, lentils and other entities in the wake of Ramazan,” said Shaikh. He added that the commissioner was determined to tackle the problems being faced by people and had launched a city-wide campaign against hoarders and those selling goods at higher rates.
The assistant commissioner, Shaikh, informed that, using his magisterial powers conferred upon him by the Sindh High Court, he had fined the Chase Up store and Imtiaz Supermarket for overcharging. Under the ‘Sindh essential commodities price control and prevention of profiteering and hoarding act 2006’ and the ‘Price control and prevention of profiteering and hoarding act of 1977’, stores found to be overcharging for their products may be fined up to Rs30,000 while the owners may face up to seven days in jail.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, a customer at the Chase Up, said that, “They [the shop owners] are filling their pockets by charging higher rates. This is similar to extortion.” He added that although official price lists were displayed at these stores, they were not strictly followed. “When we [customers] asked about the list, the cashier said that the store sold products as per the prices mentioned at the bottom of the shelves. He told us to leave if we weren’t happy with the prices,” lamented Taha.
On the contrary, the Chase Up store manager, Ashar, accepting the charge of over-pricing said that they were only charging 20 to 30 per cent extra on certain products because they were providing a range of products under one roof. He justified the extra charges saying that the customers had the advantage of shopping in a hassle-free environment.
Customers at the stores were of the opinion that although the administration had taken a step in the right direction by fining those who indulged in unfair practices, fines of paltry sums would have little or no effect on the overall situation. “Larger fines would teach them a lesson and they would be wary of indulging in such practices again,” opined Shazia, a customer at the Chase Up store. “The additional commissioner has only fined them Rs30,000 which will eventually come out of the pockets of the common man,” she said.
In the drive against profiteers on Sunday, the assistant commissioner also visited smaller enterprises in different areas, including Karachi Administrative Cooperative Housing Society, Bahdurabad and PECHS block E, to verify the prices at which different commodities were being sold. At least three people were taken into custody while different shop owners were fined a total sum of Rs80,000 during the raids “Not just the big stores, the smaller tuck shops are also selling commodities at considerably higher rates. We will take strict action against anyone found in profiteering practices. We hope the general population will get some relief by our efforts,” said Shaikh.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2013.
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