Ramazan Bazaars: Fair Price Markets Or A Political Stunt?
LAHORE: Sustey Ramazan bazaars, established by the city district government of Lahore, have this year been proving to be more a political stunt than a real attempt to provide any relief to citizens, as fair price markets.
The Punjab government had announced a Rs 2 billion ‘Ramazan Package’ in the provincial budget for 2010-11 to give subsidies on various foods items at the Ramazan bazaars. However, keeping in view the high inflation rate during the last few months, which has resulted in an over 200 percent increase in the prices of various commodities, these markets have failed to deliver.
Relief: As many as 20 of the city’s Sunday bazaars were converted into Ramazan bazaars last Sunday. These bazaars, on the very first day of their establishment, remained unable to give any considerable relief to the citizens, as only a minor difference between the bazaar prices and market prices was seen. Only the prices of sugar and flour have been significantly reduced. Sugar is available for Rs 61 per kilogramme and a 10-kg bag of flour sells for Rs 200 against the market rate of Rs 72 per kilogramme and Rs 215 for a 10-kg bag. However, the quality of sugar is very low compared to last year’s sugar, which was then being sold for Rs 40 per kg.
Last year, 21 bazaars were established, but this year the district coordination officer’s office could not set up any bazaar in Nishat Colony because the Cantonment administration did not allow it.
At the Ramazan bazaar on Wahdat Road, which comes under the Tehsil Muncipal Administration (TMA) Samanabad administration, some citizens complained about the unavailability of gram flour at a subsidised rate of Rs 58 against the market rate of Rs 70. Some citizens also complained that they were being given only one kilogramme of sugar and one bag of flour after they had waited in long queues.
On average, food items are available at prices that are one to four rupees less than market prices. People lacked interest in purchasing beef and mutton even at the much lower rates of Rs 150 per kg and Rs 250 per kg respectively, because of the very poor quality of the meat.
In most of these markets, banners of members of the national and provincial assemblies, and other politicians have been displayed to get political mileage. These banners give the impression that MPs have done a marvellous job for the welfare of the citizens. If there is some contribution, the rewards should be given to the city district government, not the MPs.
Well-organised: On the positive side, the stalls of these makeshift markets are properly arranged and are kept clean. Separate stalls for first-aid medical treatment in case of any emergencies, a waiting stall with adequate seating space for senior citizens, and a stall for complaints and announcements have also been set up. Rate lists and direction boards have also been erected in the bazaars. Unfortunately, the space reserved for senior citizens usually remained occupied by policemen and administrative staff.
The district officer for the environment, Tariq Zaman, who in charge of the supply of flour at Ramazan bazaars, told Daily Times that on average, 45,000 to 50,000 bags of 10-kg flour were being sold in all 20 of the city’s bazaars. “We have an abundant supply of flour for Ramazan, with a quota of 90,000 bags per day, and there will be no problem in supplying flour to citizens,” Zaman said.
Superintendent Mirza Asif said that 40,950 kg of sugar was sold on the first day of Ramazan. The daily average of sugar sales remained around 40,000 kilogrammes.
Gram flour, the main ingredient of pakoras, remained in short supply at Ramazan bazaars during the first three days of fasting. Some citizens complained that the commodity was not available even in the open market after the government had fixed its price at Rs 61 per kg when its price was Rs 65 per kg. In order to avoid government raids, shopkeepers were avoiding selling the product. On Sunday, gram flour was available in some bazaars for Rs 58 per kg and gram (dal chana) for Rs 57 per kg.
Other commodities with visibly lower prices than in the market are basmati rice, selling for Rs 65 against the market rate of Rs 75; gram for Rs 58 against the market price of Rs 65; dal masoor for Rs 110 against Rs 125; dal moong for Rs 98 against Rs 120; cooking oil for Rs 134 against Rs 138; Jam-e-shireen for Rs 110 against Rs 120; dry milk for Rs 430 against Rs 435; tea for Rs 490 against Rs 499; red chillies for Rs 50 against Rs 55.
In vegetables, tomatoes were available for Rs 80 against Rs 90; onions for Rs 26 against Rs 30; potatoes for Rs 20 against Rs 30; ginger for Rs 165 against Rs 170; garlic (lower quality) for Rs 190 against Rs 200; ladyfingers for Rs 35 against Rs 40; bringles for Rs 40 against Rs 45; Sindhi dates (aseer) for Rs 55 against Rs 100.