Price rise in Ramazan: Non-Muslim West teaches lesson to Islamic Pakistan
WHILE the consensus on the sighting of Ramazan moon this year was a matter of joy and satisfaction for us in Pakistan, a simultaneous upsurge in prices of food items with the advent of the Holy month, was a curse and disgrace for a country, founded in the name of Islam. The greed or lust for money, reflected in the form of hoarding, profiteering etc; becomes all the more painful when news items are found circulating on internet that countries in the nonMuslim West have been ordering reduction of prices for Muslim populace on their respective territories. Instances could be cited of WallMart, an enormous international chain, which has put up special shelves in American cities to ensure supply of items with reduced prices upto 30 percent of items for their Muslim consumers. Britain, on government orders, has done likewise in their shopping centres, and so has Germany under directives from Chancellor Angela Merkel. Saudia Arabia and a couple of Gulf States too have been following suit over the years, but it is just the reverse in Islamic PakistanHalf-hearted attempts, are made to reduce or regulate prices in Pakistan through weekly bazars, and Utility Stores, but a random survey would submit sufficient evidence that traders, and shop-keepers openly defy directives, and the government watches it happen with remarkable lack of direction.
Officials deployed to implement orders, do display some activity before the camera, but after a while, begin to take it easy again. The reason is simple. They are more interested in filling their own pockets rather than discharging their obligations. “The lack of political will to do something positive for devotees is too vivid to escape attention” commented a housewife, hit hard to adjust her limited budget for consumer items.
Oxfam, an international NGO has concluded that prices in Pakistan have already gone up between 17 and 19. Only milk has risen by 1 percent, and fewer items by 3 percent during the 48 hours before the advent of Ramazan. The question of supply and demand does become a potent factor here, but consumer resistance has been missing completely from a society, struggling to find moorings even after 68 years of its independence.
Leave alone luxuries like rich men foods or bakery products, prices of ordinary day use by poorer segments like flour, rice, pulses, poultry, vegetables, spices, fruits etc; have shot up with the sighting of moon. The tragedy multiplies in dimension when religious leaders too are found wanting to issue edicts to devotees to eat less, and resist being lavish in spending.
The media too can be charged with dereliction of duty, for it refuses to preach sanity of approach from the people, on the need to be selective with their dieting habits in Sehri or Iftar. It instead displays advertisements to promote ostentatious lifestyle where variety of items are shown with pride on the table of those sermonized by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) to be humble and austere while obeying Almighty’s commandment. Unfortunately, the tendency to buy more, or be in the rat race for eating, irrespective of the load on their pockets, is not restricted to Pakistan.
It is seen in most under-developed or developing countries, be it India, Bangla Desh or the likes. Oxfam has been speaking to communities in the Muslim world as families gather together for Iftar, the time of day when people reflect on their fast and come together as a family. Many have been speaking about how food has become much more expensive and how this has been an incredibly tough Ramadan for them.
Rising food prices are already affecting how Muslims are breaking their fasts, and with depleting land and energy resources and the gathering pace of climate change, this is likely to get worse in the future. “For many people around the world Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection and remembering those that are less fortunate and hungry.
We must ensure that people always have enough to eat, especially at the end of a fast when people need to replenish themselves.” said Penny Lawrence International Director for Oxfam. One of the starkest examples is in East Africa, where more than 12 million people are facing desperate food shortages following, in some regions the worst drought in 60 years.
The NGO with worldwide network feels that as opposed to other countries, Pakistan has enough stocks of staple food but the wavering economy and rising inflation have pushed tens of millions below the poverty line. With increased poverty and hike in the food prices, more and more Pakistanis are eating less and less.
In Bangladesh food inflation was recorded as 13.4 percent in July, 2011. Since the beginning of Ramadan prices of all staples except rice have increased significantly. The list is far too long to be explicit about it in few words. With 925 million people going hungry every day and food prices predicted to more than double within the next twenty years, the food crisis is deepening.
Another international NGO “MADE” in Europe and Oxfam are both demanding a step change from governments to act and help steer us away from an age of crisis to a more sustainable and fair future by better regulating markets, tackling climate change and investing in sustainable agriculture to ensure people have enough to eat.