The district administration’s efforts to attract customers to its Sasta Bazaar have failed to achieve the desired result as the market bore a deserted look on Thursday.
The scheme was meant to provide relief to consumers by selling edible items at affordable prices during Ramazan. The bazaar was set up at the FEF ground with more than two dozen stalls selling ghee, cooking oil, rice, flour and basin among other items. Fruits and vegetables were also being sold in another portion of the bazaar.
During a tour of the bazaar, it was observed that second grade quality peach was being sold for Rs80 per kilogramme (kg). The same quality of the fruit is being sold by street vendors at a similar price while higher quality peach is being sold for Rs120 per kg, registering a Rs50 price increase since Ramazan started. The prices for mangoes, grapes apples and bananas were in the same vein. Vegetables available at discounted prices were also poor in quality and mostly stale.
“Why should I cover half a mile to purchase stale and poor quality items when I can easily get the same near my house?” questioned Yunas, a customer. He complained about the low quality dates being sold in the bazaar for Rs100 per kg, adding “no one would eat them even if they were free.”
Stall owners were mandated to sell items at prices fixed by the administration. Within the last five days, however, the bazaar remains deprived of consumers, primarily due to the poor quality of items being sold.
“I brought vegetables to sell on the orders of the administration three days ago, but have been unable to sell even two kilogrammes of each item. The vegetables have become stale and I have to either sell perishable items at a lower price or dump them in the garbage,” lamented Irshad, a stall owner.
He claimed the administration forced him to shift his stall to Sasta Bazaar, which has resulted in loss of income for him. Irshad said he has not even earned half of what he invested because customers are not interested.
A stall owner selling goods produced by Hattar Industrial Estate said he was selling a 20kg bag of flour for Rs640, whereas it is sold for Rs710 in the local market. “Despite this, people avoid coming here and I have only sold 5kgs in the last five days,” he added. The stall owner said he was hardly making enough to cover daily transportation costs.
Haji Manzoor, a trader, appreciated the administration’s initiative but said relief will only trickle down to consumers when main suppliers set reasonable rates. “Whole sellers and big traders control the market and increase the rates, which must be followed by the small retailers,” Manzoor said.
Assistant Commissioner Ahmed Zeb Khan admitted the bazaar could not attract buyers because customers still prefer purchasing from street vendors. “They prefer to buy things from vendors regardless of the quality,” he claimed.
In response to a question, Khan said the administration has banned vendors in the city limits except for those in the Sasta Bazaar under Section 144 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). He vowed to ensure the availability of better quality items in the next 15 days.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2013.
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