SWAT: There seems to be no end to the hardships being faced by the people of Swat. They were first hit by insurgency. Then came floods. And now inflation has joined the fray to finish the job.
Prices of daily commodities have gone up by 33 per cent on average in the last one week alone. Residents of Mingora complain that shopkeepers and greengrocers increase the prices of pulses, flour, fruits and vegetables on a whim.
Luqman, who works as a computer operator in a composing shop in Mingora Bazaar, said, “Every other day the shopkeepers increase the prices of [essential food and non-food items]. There is nobody to question them.”
He added, “I earn Rs5,000 per month and pay Rs2,000 in utility bills. I am left with Rs3,000 for the rest of the month. I do not see how I will survive in this meagre amount.”
The price of a 20kg bag of flour in Mingora is Rs680. In contrast the price of the same bag in Islamabad is Rs570, which roughly translates to a 20 per cent premium over the going market rate.
Similarly tomatoes in Mingora are retailing for Rs50 per kg. Most vegetables are hovering in the Rs70 to Rs80 per kg price range.
Fazal Ghafar, a labourer, said, “Managing within our resources is getting harder. I fear I will have to limit my family to one meal a day if the prices continue to rise.”
Ghafar was talking about basic food items that do not include “luxuries” such as sugar, meat or chicken. “Us poor people cannot even think about those,” he said.
Transporters too have upped their fares. Just a little over a week ago, a wagon travelling between Mingora and Matta charged Rs35 per passenger. On Thursday the local transporters were charging Rs80 for the same distance.
Rickshaws used to charge Rs40 flat within Mingora city. The fare now is Rs60.
Locals fear the increase in petroleum products will spur a new wave of inflation.
“The increased petroleum prices will multiply our miseries,” Sajjad, a private school teacher, said.
Ijaz, a lawyer standing beside Sajjad, chimed in, “It seems that the present government of [Pakistan Peoples Party] wants to control poverty by eradicating the poor.”
Published in The Express Tribune, November 5th, 2010.
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