Ramadan and commodities prices
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.