LAHORE - Following the surge in fuel prices, utility items prices shot up while authorities as usual were dragging their feet over the matter. No checks and balance let the shopkeepers fleece the consumers by increasing prices of various daily use products throwing away the price lists, issued by the government for open markets of the city like a day before the hike announcement in the prices of a number of daily use commodities in Sunday bazaars which although have been known to offer good quality commodities at fair prices, the situation has changed as only substandard fruits and vegetables adorn Sunday bazaar stalls now.

Further, as showed in the official rate lists, issued for the Sunday bazaars the administrators increased prices of only 5 vegetables and 11 species of fruits while reviewing the weekly rates which also marred the worth and usefulness of these Sunday bazaars for the citizens and especially for the regular consumers because the vendors overpriced other vegetables, fruits and other home use items. However, the inspection teams, headed by District Officer (Monitoring and Inquiry) Amin Akbar Chopra initiated action against not a single stallholder during raids in Iqbal Town, Wahdat Colony, Shadman and Johar Town Sunday Bazaars.   Whether it is negligence or sluggishness of the officials as fair price shops also are using unfair tactics in order to fleece the consumers and are overcharging by displaying their own rate lists and hiding official price lists of market committees. Further, the vendors have been selling unhygienic and overpriced commodities allegedly under the cover of CDGL officials.

Despite the district government’s orders, many shopkeepers do not display price lists on their shops, and many of them failed to admit that they were selling poor quality goods, saying instead that their customers were satisfied.

The rates of products, enlisted in the official rate lists showed a decrease in some seasonal vegetables’ prices, they have not been implemented by the authority concerned in almost all of the fair price shops and other markets of the city but the vendors and were continuing overcharging and fleece practice which is unchecked by the officials concerned and the consumers were paying rates higher than the official ones.

Though the higher authorities were punishing the vendors, by imposing fines and lodging FIRs against shopkeepers during ongoing drive against profiteers and hoarders on account of overcharging in violation of the government rate lists and selling substandard and low quality daily use products especially the edibles but some consumers suggested the punishment as a check or accountability of the vendors is insufficient according the severity of the act of shopkeepers who are contributing diseases among the citizens by selling unhygienic edibles which was a criminal negligence and they must be taken up as criminals. Whereas, the authorities are imposing fines of some hundred rupees on them in their performance sheets which seemed a ‘joke’ with the consumers.      

Many consumers opined that markets of the city, fair price shops and Sunday bazaars required senior officers’ constant attention otherwise consumers would continue to be cheated in the interest of selfish profiteering. Residents of different vicinities demanded the district administration to take strict action against vendors selling low quality fruits and vegetables at high rates and especially against shopkeepers who in violation of rules and regulations are not displaying rate lists deliberately so that they could fleece the consumers before issuance of new rate lists of all the daily use commodities for the holy month of Ramazaan.

A shopkeeper, Naeem said that selling at low prices was difficult because of various cost expenditures like transportation and cleaning of the food items. “If we are buying at exorbitant rates from the wholesale market, how can we sell at a low price?” he added.

A consumer Mehboob Ahmad said that there was no price control mechanism due to the large conflict between the official and shopkeeper’s prices, adding that he made several complaints but there the government took no action.

A consumer Rahat Ali complained that shopkeepers were free to demand whatever price they wanted. “Buying from the fair price shops, Sunday bazaars or other markets has become so confusing, if we want a fair price, the quality is terrible, and if we do not want to compromise the quality, then it is just unaffordable for us!” he exclaimed.