PESHAWAR - The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has not allocated funds for establishing subsidised bazaars for Ramazan in absence of which the poor customers have been left to the mercy of profiteers who are looting them with both hands.

The KP government has obtained over Rs40 billion in loans from the Asian Development Bank for construction of the Bus Rapid Transit system project in the provincial metropolis. However, it has failed to allocate funds for ‘sasta bazaars’ despite the PTI chief Imran Khan slogans that the governments must spend on people instead of infrastructure. Contrary to the KP, in Punjab, scores of such subsidised bazaars have been set up in nearly every town of the province where the residents are able to purchase daily-use commodities at reasonable rates. Moreover, the Punjab government has also subsidised wheat flour and a number of other edible items for the holy month of Ramazan. On the other hands, in KP, the provincial metropolis has no ‘sasta bazaar’, which means that rest of the towns and cities of the province would also be having no such facility.

Despite tall claims of the PTI-led KP government and the Peshawar district administration regarding ensuring availability of edible items at reasonable rates, the government failed to establish a single Sasta Bazaar in the city for the purpose.

Every year, in the month of Ramazan, the governments set up temporary stalls to provide edible items at subsidised rates to the people and these bazaars used to be set up in all 4 towns of Peshawar, but this time, the administration ignored the masses to provide them relief while the shopkeepers and road side vendors are looting them by charging arbitrary prices for the various commodities.

During the tenure of the previous government, such stalls had been set up in the 4 towns of Peshawar but this time, the district administration failed to set up such bazaars at the points of the city which the people frequently visit for shopping. The well-off people can buy edible commodities even in expensive super stores but the common people are badly affected due to high prices of the commodities at ordinary shops. Huge rush on utility stores and long queue of the visitors forced the people to do shopping in the open market.

When asked, an officer of district administration said on condition of anonymity that the provincial government had not provided subsidy amount to the administration and the district administration on their own could not afford to establish subsidised bazaars in each town of the city. He said that as far as the sky rocketing prices are concerned, they are regularly raiding shopkeepers but it is always easy for them to pay the amount of fine and then resume their businesses.  He said that the rules of fining the shopkeepers are extremely relax and paying small amount of fine is not difficult for them. He said that there was dire need of heavy fines like Halal Food Authority who are now on right track to reform the system.

It is not difficult for a rich trader to pay Rs3,000 or Rs10,000 as fine as on the other hand, he earns in millions in the form of adulteration and hoarding. So the old outdated mechanism of British-era fines is needed to be reviewed and new rules should be introduced to keep check over the prices as well as the quality of the edibles, he said. Some of the shopkeepers in the bazaar are selling substandard food items and rice as per the rates of the standard items. A resident of Peshawar, Mushtaq Ali told this scribe that shopkeepers and profiteers could not be barred from the ill practices simply by imposing fine as they were earning in miilions and paying the fine was not difficult for them.

It is prime responsibility of the government to ensure subsidised bazaars on such important occasions as during the month of Ramazan, consumption of edible commodities remain high, which also translates into skyrocketing of prices of the said commodities.