Karachiites are paying more for essentials during this Ramazan compared to residents of other parts of the country, particularly Lahore, where prices are relatively stable.
There is, however, a reason why people here are worst hit by profiteering: the price checking campaign is being conducted with the help of only 60 officials in Karachi, a city of more than 20 million. Comparatively, price monitoring staff is almost double in Lahore, whose population is not even half of Karachi.
But Commissioner Karachi Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui still thinks he can beat the menace of profiteering with around 31 assistant commissioners, 20 Mukhtiarkars, six deputy commissioners and six additional deputy commissioners. It is observed that retailers do not pay much attention to random checking exercise and resume overcharging as soon as monitoring teams leave. Moreover, absence of complaint centres has left consumers at the mercy of market players. So far, efforts of the city administration in Karachi have proved to be futile as rarely a commodity is sold at the control rate. For example, live bird and its meat price is fixed at Rs146 and Rs245 per kg, but retailers are charging Rs180 and Rs300 per kg.
Mutton rate is fixed at Rs550 per kg, but is sells at Rs640-680 per kg. Beef veil price is fixed at Rs330 per kg while it is being sold at Rs340-360 per kg. Onion and potato is being sold at Rs40 and Rs70 per kg as against their official price of Rs33 and Rs60 per kg. Basin is available at Rs80 as against Rs60 per kg. The official rate of banana is Rs81 while it is being sold at Rs100-150 per dozen. Apple rate is fixed at Rs131 while it sells between Rs150-200 per kg. Rates of other grocery items, like rice, pulses, spices, milk, do not match the official prices. Fruit and vegetable vendors blame the city government for announcing unrealistically lower prices than the wholesale market. Market sources accused officials of corruption. “If you grease their palms, they stop bothering about prices,” a retailer told Dawn.
Official Rate Fixed By City Governments
|Milke (Per Liter)||70||60|
Commissioner Karachi Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui refused to accept that price monitoring is more effective in Punjab. He said, “In 30 per cent areas of Karachi, products are available at control rate. The percentage will improve, if we include Bachat Bazaars.” Despite limitation in the last 13 to 14 months, 1,000 people were sent to jail and so far challans worth Rs32,000 have been made against profiteers and Rs55m fine has been recovered from them. During first 11 days of Ramzan, 2,551 challans were made and Rs4.8m was recovered as fine while 257 persons were arrested. He favoured representation of city governments in the meeting of National Price Monitoring Committee. He said he had also informed the FBR that most of retailers and wholesalers do not offer receipts.
Prices in Lahore
DCO Lahore Capt (retd) Mohammad Usman Younus claimed that prices of fruits, vegetables and grocery items are stable in Lahore this year due to aggressive price checking. Over 800 people have been arrested for overcharging and Rs3.4 million fine has been recovered. “We are focusing more on arrest of profiteers rather than imposing fines on retailers,” he told Dawn from Lahore. He said 89 price magistrates are actively controlling prices. “I have requested for 15 more additional magistrates,” he added. “We have identified 36 critical markets where duty magistrates with special powers at camp offices are looking after price checking.”
He said price checking is being conducted throughout the year, but in Ramazan special efforts are being made to discourage profiteering. The official rate of mutton is fixed at Rs500 per kg but it is sold at Rs650-700 per kg. The control rate of potato is Rs63 while it is available at Rs70 per kg while onion’s official rate is Rs30 but is available at Rs50-60 per kg. The official rate of banana is Rs91, but it is being sold between Rs100 and 120 per dozen. Milk is sold at Rs70-80 per litre as against its official rate of Rs60 per litre. Tandoor roti is available at Rs7-8 per 100 grams while its control rate is Rs6.