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RAWALPINDI: Eight days into Ramazan, the district administration’s brigade of price magistrates have failed to monitor the quality and prices of food items being sold in the market, particularly lemons, fruit, meat and milk.

In the cantonment areas, the Rawalpindi Cantonment Board’s (RCB) food branch has not been able to control substandard edibles because it has not allowed the Punjab Food Authority (PFA) or the district administration to conduct raids in the cantonment areas.

With district price magistrates unable to intervene, shopkeepers have been selling edibles at higher prices without any repercussions.

As Ramazan enters its second week, Rawalpindi residents complain about expensive, substandard edibles

The number of price magistrates in the district has been increased from 36 to 57, but with the administration focused mainly on its 16 Sasta Ramazan Bazaars, prices in the open market have not been controlled.

Lemons were being sold for Rs400 per kilogram on Tuesday in Jhanda Chichi, Saddar, Chur Chowk, Ch. Bostan Khan Road, Gulraiz Housing Scheme and nearby areas. Mutton was being sold for Rs1,000 per kg, beef for Rs650 per kg, milk for Rs120 per kg and curd for Rs130 per kg.

The district food controller’s office has not taken food samples from the open market or wheat samples from flour mills, although there have been public complaints about substandard wheat flour and sugar in the market.

A former food inspector from the health department told Dawn that in the past, the food department would collect samples from the open market.

“This year, the subject was handed over to the PFA and it did not visit the bazaar over fears of protests by traders,” he said, adding that the PFA had started action in the winter against the sale of loose spices but halted its work after two days due to traders’ resentment.

Residents of the garrison city have complained that the prices of edibles in the open market are through the roof, while inferior quality products are being supplied.

Suhail Khan, a customer in Jhanda Chichi adjacent to Civil Lines said the district administration and cantonment board have allowed vendors and stallholders to fleece the public.

He said the market committee has failed to ensure daily use items are priced according to the official rate list and no food inspector has visited these markets to check the quality of products.

Malik Muzaffar, who was on Ch. Bostan Khan Road, said the quality of vegetables and their prices in the open market should be checked as most people do not visit the Ramazan Bazaars. He said prices in the open market need to be controlled.

There was no RCB inspector check the quality of food sold in the open market, said Mohammad Anwar during a visit to Tench Bhatta.

“Vendors do not allow us to pick the right stuff and force us to buy substandard items,” he added.

Former PML-N MNA Malik Shakeel Awam told Dawn it was the duty of the provincial government to bring down prices in the open market, but the PTI was busy taking action against opposition members.

He claimed the civic bodies were not taking action against traders because they are supporters and patrons of local PTI leaders, adding that prices in the open market have increased due to flawed economic policies.

Rawalpindi DC supervises auction of fruits, vegetables

Rawalpindi Deputy Commissioner Chaudhry Mohammad Ali Randhawa supervised the auction of fruits and vegetables at the Islamabad Sabzi Mandi on Tuesday.

The chairman of the Islamabad Market Committee and officers of the twin cities’ administrations were also present.

According to a statement, Mr Randhawa asked wholesalers to reduce their profits during Ramazan and facilitate costumers in buying essential commodities at reasonable prices not just at Ramazan Bazaars but also in the open market.

He also praised the role of the market committee chairman in regulating the wholesale prices of daily-use items.

The statement claimed that Mr Randhawa’s personal efforts helped reduce the price of lemons by Rs50 per kg compared to the retail price, as well as reducing the price of onions by Rs2 per kg, cauliflower by Rs6 and bitter gourd by Rs4.

He said all assistant commissioners have also been directed to visit fruit and vegetable markets and inspect Ramazan Bazaars daily, and price magistrates have been activated to check prices in the open market.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2019