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Consumers pay dearly for bad governance

September 03, 2008

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SAHIWAL, Sept 2: The district price control committee (DPCC) and the special price magistrate committee have failed to control the prices of kitchen items in Sahiwal, Dawn has learnt. There is a huge difference between DPCC prescribed prices and market prices mocking the writ the state apparatus.

Dawn selected 20 kitchen food items to assess the price difference and found that on each item shopkeepers charged 20 to 30 per cent more than the prices fixed by the DPCC. This overpricing is against section 3 of the Food Stuff Control Act of 1958. On Aug 25, District Coordination Officer (DCO) Muhammad Khan Khichi, being the DPCC head, decided to cut the prices of essential food commodities by Rs2 in deference of Ramazan. No shopkeeper, however, followed his orders.

Dawn observed the prices of flour, rice, sugar, gram, pulses, basin, red chili, vegetable oil, mutton, beef, milk, yogurt and roti.

The DCPP has fixed consumer price of flour Rs15 per kg, rice (super basmati) Rs75, sugar Rs28, gram (imported white) Rs64, mash pulse Rs66, basin Rs58, red chili Rs40, vegetable oil Rs112 (per litre), mutton Rs210, beef Rs10, milk Rs25 (per litre), yogurt Rs28 and roti Rs3 per piece.

The market price of these items is: flour Rs23-25 per kg, rice (super basmati) Rs95-105, sugar Rs31-32, gram (white, imported) Rs90-95, mash pulse Rs69-90, basin Rs59-60, red chili Rs150-160, vegetable oil Rs130-155 (per litre), mutton Rs220-250, beef Rs120-130, milk Rs28-30, yogurt Rs30-34 and roti Rs4.

The Sahiwal City Karyana Merchant Association has also a ‘rate list’ with three head of prices under market rate, fair price rate and Ramazan bazaar rate but the list is hardly followed in the market.

Dawn observed that even though a few shops in the city had allocated their portions to sell food items on official rates, but the quality of these items was poor.

One of the Karyana association’s representatives said they had been forced by the district administration to sell essential food items at lower prices but in reality it could not be done because of escalating prices.

An 11-member special magistrate committee is also tasked with monitoring the markets, raiding and holding trials of the violators of the price control laws (provincial, federal) under section 14-A of the Code of Procedure, 1898. The committee is supported by police for effective functioning. But its effectiveness has yet to be seen by people.

Sahiwal District Consumer Council (DDC) head Shahid said council had no power to check the prices in open market.

Muhammad Amin Awasi, deputy district officer (revenue) admitted that traders were overcharging consumers. He said the recent price hike stemmed from ever increasing fuel prices, hoarders’ monopoly in supply-demand mechanism, and overall price hike in international market.

He added that in each district special magistrate committees were formed to control the prices was formed and a DCO being head of the committee is actually the controller general of prices under the Punjab Price Control Profiteering and Hording Act of 2006.

"Such committees only exist in papers," Amin Raza, a civil society activist, says.