Not a great bargain: Two-member body formed to fix prices

Stall holders throw blame on wholesalers, customers call exercise futile.

Stallholders and customers at the Attock Sasta Bazaar. PHOTO: RASHID ALI/EXPRESS


After the stallholders and shopkeepers at the Attock Sasta Bazaar locked horns with the local administration over official rates of daily-use commodities. A two-member committee has been formed to fix rates agreeable to both sides.

The committee was formed after the retailers at the sasta bazaar protested on Thursday against the official rates of daily-use commodities saying they get the commodities at higher rate from the wholesale market, while the administration was forcing them to sell the same at lower price, which they could not afford.

They decried the local administration saying the sasta bazaars was just a ‘topi drama’ (publicity stunt) by the Punjab government to gain “cheap popularity” among the masses.

During the protest, the traders said that if the provincial government wanted to give relief to the masses, it should take concrete steps to rein in the wholesalers who sell the commodities at exorbitant rates, causing jack up of prices at the retail market. They demanded of the local administration and the provincial government to stabilise rates of essential commodities at the wholesale market instead of pressuring them to sell the same at lower rates.

Attock Assistant Commissioner (AC) Iftikhar Alam while talking to The Express Tribune said that a team comprising a representative of the local administration and one from the retailers has been formed to interact with wholesalers at the mandi (wholesale market of vegetables and fruits) to fix rates of daily-use items before supplying them to retailers.

Interestingly, despite the claim of retailers of incurring loss on selling commodities at official rates, customers at the sasta bazaar complained about costliness of daily-use items.

“The dearness of commodities is at its peak in this sasta bazaar. Not a single item is available at low price here,” said Irshad Khan, a government employee. “The chief minister is snatching every cheap thing from the public,” he said sarcastically, while referring to high prices of commodities in the sasta bazaar.

“Is this a sasta bazaar? It would be better the chief minister visits the bazaar himself to see the prices, he will realise the futility of this exercise,” said Perveen, a school teacher.

“I am surprised why people prefer to buy substandard items at high price,” said Niaz Khan, a retired army man, while talking about shoddy items.

During a visit to the market, it transpired that chaunsa (mango) is sold at Rs90 in the sasta bazaar as compared to Rs100 in the open market. However, after negotiating a bargain, one can convince a seller in the open market to sell chaunsa at Rs90. Potatoes are sold at Rs20 as compared to Rs35 in the open market. Most of the customers complained that the stalls were filled with substandard items.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2013.


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