LAHORE  - This year too, profiteering has been on the prowl, laying bare government’s claim of reigning in profiteers. Moreover, hoarders have also created artificial shortage of the food commodities in market, rubbing salt into the wounds of fast-observers.

This year too, price control squads have been set up and provincial chief executive has been getting on ‘surprise’ visits to highly sloganeered Sasta Ramazan Bazaars.

A survey conducted by The Nation revealed that shopkeepers were not conforming to the price lists issued by the government, which established these Bazaars to provide subsidised products to the consumers by allocating Rs5 billion as Ramazan relief package.

Despite the claims by the government and district administration that a robust price control monitoring system had been put in place, it seems that prices of essential items would not come down and the citizens would have to bear the brunt of continuing inflation during the rest of the holy month.

The teams deputed by the government to ensure sale of daily use items at subsidised rates could not produce the desired results as the shopkeepers are violating the instructions with impunity.Besides that, they have started stocking essential goods especially vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, onions, ginger, garlic, cucumbers etc so that they could charge the consumers heavily.The fruits, which make essential items of iftari, are being sold at exorbitant rates. They include seasonal fruits; mangoes, peach, bananas, grapes and guava. Mischievous selling of substandard edibles, on higher rates, is another issue not catching the eye of the administration.

Though dozens of complaints, regarding overcharging, have been submitted in the town administrations and DCO office, no action has been made so far.The consumers in their applications have also complained that the overcharging of prices as common in the open markets was also experienced at the Sasta Ramazan Bazaars, despite the fact that the sellers at these bazaars were provided with products on subsidised rates.

Whereas, the shopkeepers claimed to be naïve, by taking the plea that they were getting a nominal margin on almost all the commodities, and blamed the wholesalers of being involved in hoarding and black marketing.

But Naeem and Shabir, two sellers, disclosed that they were compelled by retailers to sell all the commodities at the same rates of the wholesale markets, which is clearly a violation of law.  They demanded an action against the wholesalers, instead of raiding and checking the rates of the poor shopkeepers.

Fearing their risks of bearing financial losses, the sellers were still persistent to overcharging the consumers, saying that they were not doing business for bearing losses but for earning . A citizen, Mumtaz Ahmad, complained that the vendors at Ramazan Bazaars were overcharging. 

However, the CDG spokesman said that the City’s Commissioner and DCO were personally monitoring the drive against price hike and hoarding in Ramazan Bazaars, assuring stern action against the vendors, found guilty of overcharging. Endorsing once again the ‘controlled prices’ at Ramadan bazaars, the spokesperson claimed that it was all possible due to the check by the district administration and authorities concerned. After reiterating on abundance and availability of commodities at such Bazaars, he also suggested the consumers to buy these products only from these bazaars instead of purchasing from open markets.