Black marketeers roam wild and free


LAHORE: The Punjab government has not yet initiated a crackdown against hoarders and black marketers as they continue to sell sugar and other vegetables at inflated prices, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Last year, Punjab government launched a crackdown against the hoarders for selling sugar at higher rates i.e. Rs 60 per kg but this year the consumers have no choice but to buy sugar at Rs 120-130 per Kg as the authorities seem unbothered to check escalating prices of not only sugar but of other commodities including vegetables as well.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif held a meeting on Tuesday and decided to get sugar directly from Karachi ports but the government officials say that he was quite late in doing so. They said sugar shortage was persisting in the province for the last 15 days but the Punjab government was least bothered and did not take any action to control the prices.
The chief minister is holding federal government accountable for the crisis and is taking no direct action, providing an opportunity to the hoarders to overcharge from people, said government officials. Punjab government spokesman Pervaiz Rasheed was not available to comment on any possibility of launching crackdown against the hoarders.
PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABLE: “Often people curse federal government for not controlling commodity prices but in fact it is duty of provincial governments to check them,” said a senior government official adding there were multiple reasons of not launching crackdown against the hoarders of sugar. He said big shots in sugar trading being given a free hand owing to their having political affiliations, weak administrative control of the government, absence of district governments and artificial shortages were the reasons why a crackdown had not been launched as yet.
He said, “It should be the responsibility of district governments to check prices. Since there is no district government therefore provincial governments are responsible to check price mechanism.” He said the administrative heads of the province instead of concentrating on important issues were quarrelling among themselves.
CONSUMERS WORRY: The consumers criticised the provincial government’s inability to control prices and expressed their surprise over Punjab government’s leniency against the hoarders. The consumers said the provincial government made hollow claims of providing relief to masses but in reality the situation was different.
“It has become impossible for the poor to run a household under these prices; the poor can not even rely on roti with onions as the onion prices too have escalated to Rs 100 per Kg,” said a business executive Habib Ahmed. A labourer Shaukat Ali said that it was not possible for him and his family to have three square meals.
“I don’t know who is responsible for the crisis. All I know is that prices increase on daily basis. The prices of sugar, flour and vegetables are so high that I can hardly dine twice a day,” he said. A private school teacher Imran Ahmed said last month he bought sugar for Rs 70 per Kg and suddenly its price has risen to Rs 100.
“Last month, I bought groceries for Rs 4,500 but this month I have to spend Rs 5,500. The government should check why only onion and sugar were getting expensive ahead of Eid. There is no shortages of vegetables yet prices are rising.” he said.