FAISALABAD: The district administration, market committee and police are allegedly contributing to price hike instead of containing it for the welfare of the masses, according to an intelligence agency report.

The report holds the market committee mainly responsible for the current wave of price hike. The committee does not send its representatives to monitor the auction of fruit and vegetables daily, thus helping the auctioneers and vendors to set the rates that suit them. It issues the rate list in connivance with the vendors, who are exploiting the consumers with impunity. The rates of fruits and vegetables fluctuate daily.

It further said that a couple of days ago, the auction process was monitored at the Siddhar fruit market on Jhang Road wherein it was noted that the wholesaler sold melon for Rs50 a kg, the market committee fixed its rate at Rs95 and it was sold in retail against Rs100 to Rs110. Similarly, the rates of watermelon were Rs20 a kg in wholesale, Rs35 in market committee and Rs40 in retail.

The rates of Aseel date were Rs90 a kg by the wholesaler, Rs130 set by the market committee and it was sold for Rs150 at shops; banana Rs100, Rs130 and Rs150, respectively; white apple Rs100, Rs120 and Rs140, respectively; Kala Kulu apple Rs165, Rs200 and Rs300, respectively; Turkish apple Rs300, Rs310 and Rs400, respectively.

Similarly, rates of vegetables were also high at the shops as compared to their market rates. Tomato was sold in the auction for Rs22, its market rate was fixed at Rs32 and the retail shops sold it for Rs50 to Rs60; Chinese ginger Rs175, Rs195 and Rs250, respectively; Thai ginger Rs150, Rs185 and Rs200, respectively; Chinese garlic Rs190, Rs250 and Rs280, respectively; Pakistani ginger Rs100, Rs120 and Rs180, respectively; green chili Rs25, Rs50 and Rs80, respectively; onion Rs35, Rs44 and Rs50, respectively; and potato (new) Rs30, Rs35 and Rs50, respectively.

The market committee was also allegedly involved in corruption of millions of rupees every month as its employees were not registering the actual number of bags in the official record.

Highlighting the modus operandi of this alleged corruption, the report noted that if a farmer brought 100 bags of his produce for sale, the committee would register only 10 bags and embezzle the fee charged for the rest of the bags.

Shedding light on the role of the district administration and the police, the report said that following the Punjab government’s instructions, police and the deputy commissioners were bound to visit the vegetable and fruit markets daily. However, representatives of both departments visited the markets in the morning for maximum 20 minutes and then returned after getting their pictures taken.

Usually, these officers reached the market at 6am, while the auction started at 4:45am. Fruits were auctioned in stages till noon, while vegetables were auctioned till the evening. The report states that the visits by police and district administration officials were futile as the government had bound them to ensure a fair auction process so that price hike could be averted.

Suggesting remedial measures, the report said cameras must be installed to monitor the entire auction process and the market committee be made to issue a rate list daily. The trend of artificial price hike could be controlled by taking stern action against the district administration head.

People from different walks of life must be made part of the market committee to ensure effective checks and balance, the report suggests, adding that the nexus of agriculture and revenue department and the market committee must be busted.

“The menace of artificial price hike can only be controlled if the market committee issues the average price of the commodities and the price list. The district administration must ensure implementation of the price list,” the report concluded.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2019