. .

People expects a stern and swift action against the rampant menace of profiteering

By Syed M. Aslam
Dec 04 - 10, 2000

The advent of the sacred fasting month of Ramadan witnesses a customarily sharp increase in prices of all kitchen items be it such commodities as sugar, wheat flour, rice, pulses or produce like fruits and vegetables. This year has been no different.

With the start of Ramadan which coincided with the 28th of November the prices of all the kitchen items recorded a sharp increase. Despite warnings emanating from the top officials that undue price increases would not be tolerated the prices of eatables started registering increase a good two weeks before the beginning of Ramadan which reached its zenith with its advent. Such basic vegetables, onions and potatoes were also not spared and were seen to be fit to be sold at a premium despite being in season.

The administration of the biggest megapolis of the country, Karachi, issued a notification fixing the prices of fruits and vegetables as well as sugar and wheat flour. It also published phone numbers of Commisioner's control centre as well as phone numbers of complaints centres in the five districts of the city to record a complaint. The administration also established complaint centres at the weekly bazaars on any given day of the week across the various localities of the city to help check the tendency to make quick gains by the retailers.

However, profiteers find ways to flaunt the warnings due to two reasons primarily. Number one, they understood that the administration does not have the required manpower to monitor them in a sprawling population of over 10 million and number two, the public has become too docile to report their misdeeds on telephone for an action that may or may not come.

The traditional Ramadan price flare up has been taken with a pinch of salt by the consumers who have realised over the years that the administration is either not keen to force the traders see the light of reason or is too pre-occupied with matters of greater importance. In the process, the consumers stopped complaining and the traders kept becoming hungrier for fatter profits with the advent of Ramadan with each passing year.

The refrain most often used by the sellers is that the bigger demand of eatables in Ramadan is one of the major cause of price increases, a situation which they have no power to control. The consumers on the other hand have been left with just one choice, either to buy the eatables at the prices dictated by the sellers or stop eating it altogether.

The price of sugar soared from Rs 21 per kilogram to as high as Rs 40 kilogram in last 10 weeks prior to Ramadan before being brought down to Rs 28-30 per kilogram at present despite official price fixed at Rs 27 per kilogram. The artificial shortage aimed at pushing the price of sugar before it was accorded the stamp of the official approval is enough to prove how successful the profiteers scheme has been.

Despite raids resulting in arrests of dozens of profiteers and fines to many others, sellers are hell bent to reap the best of the profits during the holy month. The raid and fines have failed to work due to swift action by the authorities and the measures in general have failed to stir the fear of earthy action into the hearts of profiteers.

The national psyche to irrespective of how absurdly high are the prices has also to be blamed for the rampant profiteering. In the absence of any concerted consumer protection lobby, no matter how feeble it may be, the profiteers are having a field day and a visit to any weekly bazaars or neighbourhood stores provides an ample proof of it.

It's time the government should get tough with the profiteers particularly during Ramadan and generally throughout the year to help curb the menace of undue profit making which is making the consumers dig deeper and deeper into their pockets during every single trip to the store or the market.

The prices of poultry, beef, mutton, wheat flour, rice, sugar, pulses, vegetables and fruits have find a nasty habit of increasingly sharply without any reasons for which no wholesalers or retailers feel they are answerable. It's time to check the menace which is constantly eroding the purchasing power of consumers, particularly the salaried segment of the society who have just a single source of income.

It is imperative that the administration should implement the prices of eatables with stern action in deed to provide relief to a population whose food items tops its budget list. Happy stomachs make happy heads.

When the military government came to power in October last year people expected a stern and swift action against the rampant menace of profiteering. The promised relief failed to come last Ramadan and this year is proved to be no different.