KARACHI: Livestock and poultry traders are being forced to pay an ‘illegal market fee’ in the jurisdiction of Mowach Goth and Steel Town police stations, it emerged on Thursday.

Sources told Dawn that the staff of a company, which was awarded a contract last month for fee collection by the Market Committee Karachi (MCK), had set up check-posts at city’s entry points and allegedly extorting money from livestock traders.

“This extortion has been going on for two weeks now. We have complained about this matter in writing to the Sindh chief secretary, Karachi commissioner as well as to the secretaries of market committee and agriculture department. But, we haven’t received any response yet,” said Latif Quraishy representing Association of Livestock Traders, Sindh.

Government-hired contractors, he pointed out, subjected livestock traders transporting their sacrificial animals to Karachi to extortion every year ahead of Eidul Azha. “This year, however, traders of livestock as well as poultry and suppliers of green/dry fodder are also being subjected to extortion.”

The source said government-hired contractors in previous years had been resorting to “tax collection sprees” ahead of Eidul Azha under different pretexts, such as ‘health clearance’, ‘keeping of milching animals’ and ‘entry fee’.

When contacted, Kamal Akhtar Siddiqui of the Poultry Wholesalers’ Association said he had also received such complaints. “While extortion at Hub Chowki has been going on for years, more check-points have sprung up this year to mint money from traders.”

‘A politicised body’

Established under the Agricultural Produce Market Act, 1939, the MCK was meant to be a body to provide support to growers and end the role of middle-men.

Over the years, the sources said, the body had been politicised with no productive role to play.

Last month, the MCK chairman released a notification seeking assistance from government departments and law enforcement agencies for collection of market fee from traders of poultry, livestock and green/dry fodder.

According to the notification, the contract for collection of market fee was awarded to M/s Israr Basit Enterprises through open auction.

The Sindh High Court had twice ruled against collection of market fee at city’s entry points; in 1997 and then in 2000.

In its order issued in 2000, it cited the Agricultural Produce Market Act, 1939, stating: “In any event, the grant of a licence to a dealer only enables him to carry on his business in the notified Market Area in conformity with this requirement of the Act and the Rules.

“There is nothing in the law enabling such dealer to recover Market Fee on behalf of the Market Committee or Trade Allowance from persons who do not transact business through him,” it said.

The court also made it clear that the market fee could be obtained against certain services and the generated funds were to be spent “for purposes specified in the statute”.

Admitting that collection of market fee at city’s entry points is illegal, MCK secretary Mohammad Sharif Abbasi said the matter had been brought to his notice on Thursday and he would get an explanation from the contractor.

“Such a fee could only be imposed in a notified market where sale and purchase of animals and agriculture produce is carried out,” he said.

The process of market fee collection, he said, had been initiated in Karachi after a long time and that the contractor would be asked to provide basic services in the notified markets where market fee was being collected.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2022

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