• Sindh governor promulgates anti-hoarding ordinance
• CS says officials can confiscate goods to auction them
• Up to Rs100,000 fine on failing to display official price list

KARACHI: Over 100 section officers (SOs) of different provincial departments on Friday were designated magisterial powers to take action against profiteering and hoarding in Karachi alone during Ramazan after the Sindh governor promulgated an ordinance to implement the official price control mechanism during the holy month.

The decision to amend the anti-profiteering and anti-hoarding law was taken by the provincial government as the reports of overcharging consumers for essential commodities, especially edible items, flood the social and mass media.

Almost in every part of the city, retailers kept on charging consumers the prices of their own choice, throwing the official rate lists in the dustbin.

Since the district administration did not have enough officers with designated powers to enforce the official prices, there was little action against the profiteers and hoarders.

With a considerable increase in the workforce, the provincial government expects to control the price hike effectively.

On Friday, Sindh Governor Kamran Tessori promulgated the Sindh Essential Commodities Price Control and Prevention Hoarding (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023 to amend the anti-profiteering and hoarding act of 2006.

An amendment in Section 2 of the act enabled the provincial government to designate authorised officers who would be empowered to arrest the profiteers and hoarders. Earlier, only the assistant commissioners were vested with such powers.

Sindh Chief Secretary Sohail Rajput told Dawn that the designated officers were also authorised to confiscate the goods of the profiteers and hoarders and to auction them.

He said that over 100 sections officers were designated with the powers under the ordinance and deputed in seven districts of the city to ensure price control during Ramazan.

Besides, the chief secretary said, officers from the agriculture, labour and food departments were deputed in each district of the province to check and enforce the price control.

Up to 15 officers were deputed in each district in the interior of the province in addition to the assistant commissioners who were already authorised to initiate action against the profiteer and hoarders, he added.

He said the designated officers would report to the respective deputy commissioners, adding that the additional workforce would help beef up the price control mechanism.

Enhancement of fines

The amended ordinance also enhanced the fine for the first time offender of profiteering from Rs30,000 to Rs100,000 and for repeated offender up to Rs1 million.

The amendment in the First Schedule of the act also included 38 more commodities to the list of already 21 items.

The added items include salt, drugs and medicines, kerosene oil, matches, coal, cement, cotton, pesticides, surface clearing products, ice, wheat, dates, roti, naan, chapatti, gram flour and its products, rice flour and dates.

As per the ordinance, a fine of up to Rs100,000 would be imposed on the producer or dealer for failure of display price lists of essential commodities. Offending retailers would be fined Rs20,000 and pushcart vendors Rs10,000.

A fine of Rs100,000 would be imposed for selling essential commodities in the First Schedule at a higher price than the notified price.

Besides, an authorised officer may arrest any person without warrant against whom there is credible information that he commits an offence under the act.

Under the ordinance, any person who provides information to an authorised officer with regard to any act of hoarding, price hike and any violation under the act, which results in conviction and the deposit of fine amount into the government treasury, shall be entitled to an award equivalent to 10pc of the amount of fine.

Bachat bazaars

Meanwhile, the city administration has established a network of bachat bazaars in the city.

Official sources said that 28 bachat bazaars were being established in different parts of the city during Ramazan in addition to the already established facilities for consumers.

They said that as many as 18 bachat bazaars had been functional in the city while the remaining would start operation by Sunday.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2023

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