As if the astronomical inflation running over the past few years in the country had not already brought the general public to a stage where they could just afford to buy essential items of food to the exclusion of clothings or anything else, hardly any less necessary for life to go on, a virtual tsunami of price hike lies in wait for them. Press reports suggest that the rates of atta, staple food for all in Pakistan with some exceptions, will shortly register a rise of as much as Rs 30 to Rs 40 per bag of 20kg, as the mill owners’ association has asked its members to assemble in an emergency session to take up the issue. The mill owners have, it is felt, taken commodity dealers in confidence about their plan, understandably because they could create a crisis situation, if the government hesitated to accept their demand. There are also allegations that as a prelude to a formal raising of the prices, some stockists have started hoarding atta and wheat to make bigger profits and to exploit the situation, some shopkeepers are charging from their regular customers even Rs 30 or so higher than the expected price. As things stand, there is a possibility that the mill owners would succeed in their plans. Inevitably then, the people would have to face the certain prospect of the rates of the whole range of by-products of atta to go up as a first step. As food items hold the trump card in the economy, any shift in their prices would not fail to cast a shadow over other activities of life. It would set a chain reaction in the market and the people should be ready to pay more for other goods and services.

Considering that the general elections are around the corner and the ruling parties would be required to seek votes on the basis of their performance, hiking up the price of the staple food would have been the last thing on their minds. There is no shortage of issues that are endlessly worrying the masses already. They are being forced to go through an unlimited period of unannounced loadshedding of gas and electricity in this freezing cold weather. And there is no prospect of relief in sight; if anything, things threaten to go worse. The government’s reluctance to clear the circular debt to enable the power generating units to pay for the fuel they consume lies at the root of the problem; for otherwise, the power production capacity installed in the country exceeds the peak hour demand. Gas reserves were known to be getting exhausted but, as ill luck would have it, no move was made to do drilling of promising sites to meet the shortfall. Not only that. We are stalling over the Iran-Pakistan gas supply project. Other concerns of the public hardly need recounting: poor economy with its concomitant joblessness; total insecurity of life; transport woes; the traffic muddle; dilapidated schools and substandard healthcare system, to mention some.

It would be highly unwise if more burden in the form of atta price hike is put on the common man’s back.