LAHORE: The soaring prices of ghee and edible oil in the market have forced people to queue for long hours in the sweltering heat at the government-run Utility Stores, but many of them still return empty-handed as the daily stock of the commodity runs out in just a couple of hours.
June 24, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
The pushing and shoving in queues often turn into brawls between angry citizens who are incensed at the delay they are facing in entering Utility Stores, as the stock of ghee depletes quickly with others walking out with pouches of what has now become a precious commodity in Pakistan.
“I came here two days back but the store staff said they had run out of ghee stock,” a woman standing in a queue at Utility Store in Allama Iqbal Town tells Voicepk. “I came here at 6am in the morning but am still waiting in the queue in the scorching heat for my turn to enter the store,” she adds.
Another citizen coming out of the store complains that he has been able to get only half of the necessities needed for his family of 10 persons.
“People are queueing in the scorching heat to procure ghee on subsidized rate but return empty-handed as stocks run out quickly,” he says.
In recent days, the government has increased petrol and diesel prices by 40 percent, which people say has caused a storm of inflation – making the livelihood of low-income people extremely difficult.
“The soaring inflation is killing poor people, especially those living on rented accommodation,” says a middle-aged citizen outside the Utility Store in Gulberg. “How can we survive as ghee is selling for Rs 600 in the market, vegetables are Rs 150 per kg and flour is Rs 100 per kg,” he says angrily, adding that the Shahbaz Sharif government has failed to meet promises that he will rein in prices of essential commodities and food.
A pouch of kilogramme ghee is available at Utility Stores for Rs 300, about half of the current market price. Similarly, a 10 kg bag of flour is priced at Rs 400 and sugar for Rs 75 per kilogramme. There is a government subsidy of Rs. 250/kg on ghee, Rs 25/kg on sugar and Rs 35/kg on flour. Lentils and cereals are also sold on Rs25/kg subsidy at these state-managed stores.
Every registered citizen can take 5 kg of ghee, 40 kg of flour, and 5 kg of sugar once a month under the government relief package. During registration, the citizen receives OTP on his mobile phone via SMS, after which he can buy ghee, flour, and sugar at subsidized rates.
Sales were halted in some stores due to a malfunction relating to updating new prices of items in the POS system. The Utility Stores revised rates of hundred of items on the shelves after companies supplying these goods jacked up prices. The citizens waiting outside some of these stores expressed their grief and anger, calling it another instance of the government’s incompetence.
“I left my children home alone to get ghee from Utility Store but staff says the store is shut due to technical glitch,” a woman vents her anger. A senior citizen says he has never been able to buy ghee at a subsidized rate at the Utility Store as daily stock runs out in a matter of minutes. “The inflation is reaching an unbearable peak,” he adds.
People are turning out in a large number at Utility Stores due to the discounted price of ghee. However, only a few thousand of them are able to get their hands on the scarce commodity after queuing for hours in scorching heat every day. On the other hand, the government claims that 113 million deserving people have so far benefited from the facility in the last three months.