–Customers allege USC stores admin selling subsidised items in open market to earn profits
–USC zonal manager assures action against those involved in such activities, selling low-quality items
LAHORE: Customers have complained about the dearth of daily use items at utility stores meant, exposing the tall claims of the government of providing essential food items at subsidised rates during the holy month of Ramzan.
Speaking to Pakistan Today, the customers complained that all the utility stores in the city had failed to cater to their needs and accused the stores of selling substandard items. The consumers further said that most of the stores in the city had a limited variety of cooking oils while many had a shortage of sugar, pulses, wheat flour, syrups and jams etc, which were considered some of the most essential items for the preparation of Iftar.
They said most of the Utility Store Corporation (USC) stores located in Ayubia Market of New Muslim Town, Garhi Shahu, Shadman and Shahdara had put up notices stating that sugar, masalas and drinks were not available and people had to wait in long queues for hours in a bid to buy items of daily use.
A citizen, Muhammad Aslam, who runs a small shop in Shadman Market, complained that USC stores were selling substandard items including sugar of low quality. “In the first three days of the holy month, there was no sugar available at the stores at all. A supply of sugar has made it to the shelves now, but it is of an extremely poor quality. This is the height of negligence on the authorities’ part,” he said.
Tahir Khan, a labourer, alleged that the administration of USC stores was secretly selling cooking oil, pulses, gram flour and drinks in the open market and that was why these items were not available at the government stores.
Sarfraz Ahmed, a salesman at the USC store, said he could not do anything to improve the supply. “It is the responsibility of the government and zonal managers to improve the supply at the stores and we just send them demand notices,” he said and denied allegations of selling subsidised items to stores in the open market.
USC Zonal Manager Mohsin Goraya said the administration would replenish the supply in the next two to three days. He asserted that a strict action would be taken against the salesmen of the stores involved in selling items to stores in the open market and those selling low-quality items.
It is pertinent to note that the government announced a mega Rs1.73 billion subsidy under its Ramzan Relief Package 2018 to facilitate the poor. The government claimed that it would provide 5 per cent to 10 per cent relief to the masses in the prices of more than 1,000 items at USC stores.
The government, in a bid to facilitate the masses, fixed the prices of daal mash at Rs105 per kg, daal masoor at Rs80 per kg, gram flour at Rs120 per kg and daal chana at Rs95 per kg. While these items are approximately 60 rupees cheaper at the utility stores as compared to the open market, their scarcity at the said stores sure raises eyebrows at the government’s claims.