SUKKUR: Although new stocks of sugar arrived at the Utility Stores Corporation, there is none available for sale to the general public at its stores. Instead, they are selling sugar to shopkeepers at a higher rate, allowing the managers to line their pockets and forcing people to pay more to purchase it from the open market.
The rate of sugar at utility stores is Rs54 per kilogramme (kg), while it is being sold for Rs60 per kg in the open market. Utility stores managers are, however, allegedly supplying it to shopkeepers at the rate of Rs56 per kg, pocketing the remainder. Sugar has not been available for the general public at the stores for over a month.
A survey of the utility stores in Sukkur revealed that these stores, set up to provide relief to the lower and middle classes, have become a hub of corruption, with most of the commodities being sold to shopkeepers, who later sell it in the market for a higher price.
Managers of various utility stores told The Express Tribune that sugar had not been supplied to them for over a month because it is being packed at their warehouse to avoid shortages in Ramazan. While one of the managers admitted that some customers bought sugar, lentils and other commodities in bulk, he denied selling them to shopkeepers to make money. "If a person visits the store and purchases 20kg of sugar, we cannot ask him why he is buying it in bulk."
However, an employee at one of the stores, requesting anonymity, said that some shopkeepers regularly purchased sugar and other items to sell them on at higher rates. "They grease our palms and the managers always keep the lion's share," he admitted. "We earn more when there is a larger difference between rates at the store and the open market." He claimed that some influential shopkeepers could even get commodities directly from the warehouse.
The Utility Stores Corporation's regional manager, Zulfiqar Rahat, denied the allegations of selling commodities to shopkeepers. "Around 64 tons of sugar are lying at our warehouse but we have been instructed not to supply it to the stores till further orders," he claimed. "Sugar was earlier available at the stores for Rs54 per kg but now there is a dispute about fixing the price of sugar."
Regarding selling sugar to the shopkeepers directly from the warehouse, he said that anyone could check the warehouse stock at any time. He added that they would start supplying sugar to the utility stores soon after receiving the green signal from the authorities.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2015.
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