Ramadan Mubarak. With it, Mubarak on the price increases in the rates of all the necessities and commodities. Peach has ramped up to Rs75 per kg from Rs60, grapes Rs110 from Rs90, banana Rs80 from Rs60, apricot Rs100 from Rs70.
This time the reason behind price hike is not floods, rains or any natural calamity but Ramadan-ul-kareem that teaches us to practice self-control, self-discipline, sacrifice and empathy for the less fortunate; thus encouraging generosity and charity. What a paradox to what we see happening around.
In addition, an artificial shortage of tomato and onion has also been created in the wholesale market to raise the prices. This latest increase in prices has and will badly hit the meagre budgets of lower and the middle class who are already left hand to mouth, thanks to the high inflation rate of over 11.
The demons of profiteers and hoarders has come out of dungeon, as the devil is chained in, with the onset of Ramadan. As usual, they are likely to face no resistance from the government quarters as they instead of initiating any solid crackdown against them, resort to the easier solution of announcing the so-called Ramadan packages both at federal and provincial levels.
The federal government’s relief package of Rs2.5 billion and Punjab government’s package worth Rs4 billion were insignificant for the country’s 180 million people. Practically there are no utility stores, where the subsidized rate items of daily use under the federal government’s relief package are available for 65 per cent of the population living in the rural areas.
The situation demands opening of more utility stores in the villages and tough measures to be ensured through effective mechanism of price and quality control. As the month of Ramadan has already begun, we cannot have more stores overnight so we need to focus more on setting up an effective mechanism to control prices. But this requires 100 percent commitment on the part of the government, which is busy making new laws through parliament and ordinances.
Giving masses some relief at least in the holy month doesn’t appear any significant for the government that is supposed to sit with all the parties in and outside the parliament to form a solid strategy to eradicate this menace forever from the country.
Interestingly, not a single party (in government) or parliamentarian who call themselves as champions of humanitarian issues of common man have even talked about price-hike in Ramazan, leaving consumers at the mercy of profiteers.
The government along with other political and religious parties should approach the traders and business community and request them to offer discounts on basic commodities to consumers during the holy month and Eid. The government can, in return offer some relaxation in taxes to the businessmen. In this way, maximum number of people could be provided relief across the country.
In the west, we see huge discounts on all items for customers on the Christmas and other national festivals. We have similar examples in Qatar, Kuwait and UAE, where the concern ministries have started preparations for before the holy month of Ramadan to control the prices of various products, especially food item to make them affordable to everyone.
In Kuwait, the government has set up a hotline to report any commercial cheating or artificial hike in the prices of commodities during Ramazan.
As the general elections are around the corner, providing relief to masses especially during the holy month is a big challenge for the PPP-led government. PPP’s win on NA-151, considered a stronghold of ex-PM Gilani who remained in the office for over four years, in by-election with a minor lead is an alarming situation for the ruling party.
Generally when elections draw near, the parties in government try to provide maximum relief to masses, but in our case, any relief is still a distant dream for people.