Srinagar: The prices of daily essentials including fruits and vegetables besides meat and chicken continue to be sold at exorbitant prices as the government notified rate list is not being followed by shopkeepers and vendors selling perishable items in various markets.
Several consumers overcharged for eatables, especially chicken, mutton vegetables and fruits, complained to Greater Kashmir that they have to face the wrath of shopkeepers and vendors whenever they ask for the rate list.
The aggrieved consumers said perishables, including locally produced vegetables, were being sold at prices much higher than the government fixed rates.
“Fruits, vegetables and other essential items are no longer affordable for middle class people. Same items have different rates at different locations and shops. There is no check from the department on it,” said Faheem Ahmad, a resident of Srinagar.
The consumers also complained that chicken and mutton are also sold at exorbitant rates in violation of the government fixed rates.
“Shopkeepers give arbitrary hike in rates as per their own will. At some places, Chicken is sold at Rs 170 per kg while at some places it is sold at Rs 150 to Rs 160,” said Nazir Ahmad, another consumer. Notably the government fixed rate for chicken is Rs 125 per kg.
Also, the majority of the butchers have also started violating government fixed rates for mutton and are selling mutton at Rs 600 per kilogram while the government fixed rate was Rs 535.
“The department had tightened its noose against these retailers selling perishables but now the checking squad is nowhere visible on ground which has given impunity to these retailers for violating government fixed rates,” said Muzaffar Ahmad, another consumer.
Besides Srinagar, similar complaints were also received from other districts where consumers complained that no fruit and vegetable seller was displaying the rate lists of the items in front of their shops and roadside kiosks.
The consumers complained that enforcement was lacking from the department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs (FCSCA) as a result of which vegetables and fruits were being sold at exorbitant prices.
“The checking squads of the FCSCA department are not visible on the ground these days. This has given a free hand to the chicken and mutton sellers besides fruit and vegetable vendors,” said Showkat Ahmad, a resident of Baramulla.
He said the market checking should have been intensified as was done during the month of Ramadan.
“The checking squads should remain active throughout the year particularly,” Ahmad said.
This newspaper carried a series of stories regarding overpricing during previous months after which joint market checking squads were activated in all districts and sealed chicken and mutton shops for violating the government notified rates.
President Mutton dealers Association Khazir Muhammad Regoo when contacted put the blame on wholesalers saying that they do not adhere to the government notified rate which automatically force retailers to sell mutton at exorbitant rates.
“When the meeting was held in earlier months, the wholesalers agreed to the government fixed rates but later did not implement it on ground due to which the rate list was not followed at some places,” Regoo said.
He also said the government, as per the wholesalers, was not able to streamline the issue in a proper way. “The wholesalers had raised some grievances in the meeting before the government and were assured of some relief. But they (wholesalers) are still complaining that their grievances were not addressed,” Regoo said.
Deputy Director Enforcement FCSCA, Mushtaq Ahmad Wani when contacted said the checking squad conducts daily market inspections and the department has registered several FIRs against the violators and sealed scores of shops as well.
“We are already aware about these violations and that is why we are holding daily market inspections. I always appeal to people to come forward to register their complaints on our helpline number: 18001807011,” he said. Wani said once a consumer becomes a witness of the violation by the shopkeeper or any vendor it makes the case against the violator stronger.
“Otherwise these violators whose shops are sealed and FIRs registered against them, get released because the department fails to produce any witness,” he said.
Director FCSCA, Abdul Salam when contacted said they have scheduled a meeting with chicken dealers on Tuesday and all the issues will be discussed in the meeting.
“The problem in fixing rates for fruits and vegetables is their rates fluctuate from the suppliers outside. Everyday fresh fruits and vegetables are transported to Kashmir valley at different rates. It becomes difficult to fix their rates,” he said. He however said the department will still identify the violators who sell mutton and chicken at exorbitant rates and strict action as per law will be initiated against them.