How long would be the people be left at the mercy of traders


Nov 03 - 09, 2003



The sudden rise in the prices of edibles in the holy month of fasting, Ramazan, has become an all too common a routine and this year has been no different. The price of such common kitchen item as tomato has already touched an unaffordable level Rs 50 per kilo and the prices of all other vegetables and fruits have depicted a similar trend.

In the civilised world elsewhere the traders also do a roaring business but they chose to go for the turnover instead of artificially inflating the prices to make, as they say, an overnight killing. That explains the reason why prices of not only the edibles but almost every other item sharply increased at all such auspicious occasions to sell more at less prices and still make reasonable turnover-based profits. Here the traders and all those related with the trade view Ramazan, and for that matter all other religious festivals, as an opportunity to earn profit for the whole year.

The cloth, shoe, apparel, garments and an array of other traders have developed a habit of treating all festivals as an occasion to skin the buyers with no visible efforts by the authorities to stop the rip off. Yes there are price control agencies but they either remain much too indifferent or impotent to help discourage the traders of all shades and varieties from the customary abominable practices.

For the last three years there is also a city government comprising elected representatives and yet nothing has been done to stop the fleecing which has become a standard. That does not mean that the officials of the price control committee, yes there is such an official agency, and the City government are just sitting idle. Just yesterday, the chief of Karachi's City Government reached an accord with the meat sellers to fix the prices of grade A, B and C beef at Rs 60, 70 and 80 per kilogram respectively way below the going rates of Rs 90-110. However, many who read the news splashed in the papers with a sense of jubilation on the part of making such a historic 'agreement' just laughed at it, some of them in highly disturbing tones.



You see that such 'accords' and 'agreements' are meant more to make a good headline instead of being implemented. The butchers would go on selling the meat at prices they see fit telling those mentioning the 'accord' to make the way for those who have no such qualms and even if they have just don't have the temerity to mention it to them. Yes, the 'accord' is meant to be openly disobeyed good only for the high ups to take a credit which they don't deserve in the first place.

The annual fleecings have become such a routine that it now deserves only cursory mentioning good only for a news that has become a much too open a secret. The people know that they have no choice but to be fleeced, the traders indifferently ignores the all too familiar warnings by the officials and the officials have become used to find smug pleasure with the meaningless accords they have made with an array of traders. Behind the facade it is business as usual for the unscrupulous traders who have become accustomed to treat Ramazan as a month good for earning a year's profit. Anything less is just not acceptable.

The salaried class is the worst victim of the artificial fleecing mania. With the cost of living on incessant rise this particular segment of the society is forced to dig deeper and deeper in its pockets to absorb the impact of inflated prices fed. The artificial price spirals have deprived it the pleasure of the festivals which demands new clothes, shoes and accessories, particularly for the children.

Since there is a great emphasis on food during the month of the fasting the prices of every single edible and kitchen item seem to show signs of great increase. For instance, the price of a kilo of top American almond rose sharply from Rs 270 to Rs 340 at Jodia Bazar, the biggest wholesale market of commodities in Karachi, a full 10 days before the advent of the holy month. A shopkeeper expressed fears that the price would increase further during the month as Eid-ul-Fitr nears.

The sharp increase in prices in so short a time clearly shows that it has nothing to do with the demand. Surely the traders have ample time to stock up the edibles and all other products to meet the demand. Surely the increased turnover offers them respectable returns on their investment. Certainly the massive sale volumes mean reasonable profits. The sharp price hikes speak volumes about the traders lust for overnight kill and administration's failure to keep the traders in line.

The question is: How long would be the people be left at the mercy of traders to fleece them at will to deprive them of the happiness that they rightly deserve?