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.

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