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Price hike makes life difficult for low-income families

Price hike makes life difficult for low-income families

KARACHI: “Learning about the rise in costs, customers are cursing us on our face,” said a shopkeeper at a retail grocery shop at Shahabuddin Market here on Thursday.

“Everything costs more now. Sugar has gone up from Rs50 per kilogram to Rs70, flour was Rs35 per kilo but it is Rs50 now. There is a Rs20 per kg increase in lentil prices, too. The variety of rice which was available at Rs80/kg is now being sold at Rs100 as the Rs120 variety is selling at Rs150 and what was being sold for Rs150 earlier is now Rs180 a kilo,” he added.

“But we didn’t raise these costs. We don’t set prices. We are ourselves fighting an uphill battle as we try to survive in this retail market business during this terrible inflation. The cereals, lentils, flour and other stuff that we sell is brought here by us from Jodia Bazaar on loan. We need to pay the bigger retailers there in order to stay in business.

‘Our salaries are still the same and yet the price of everything has gone up’

“Meanwhile, we also maintain customers’ monthly accounts. We have had these people as our customers for 30 to 40 years now. We can’t turn them away. They take groceries from us on loan throughout the month and pay us after they get their salaries.

“Sadly, after the recent rise in costs they are unable to pay us back in full. For instance where they owed Rs10,000, they are able to only come up with Rs9,000, making it worse for them the following month as then they need to pay back Rs11,000 but they still can only pay Rs9,000. It is like quicksand pulling them deeper and deeper into debt,” the shopkeeper said.

“And if we look at our entire country now, it seems like it is also running on promises and loans that just won’t clear,” he smiled sadly. “We are all begging and borrowing and it won’t be long before many of us may also be forced to steal.”

Cutting costs

A housewife there bargaining with a shopkeeper for a quarter of a kilogram of tea leaves shared her plight with Dawn. “Our salaries are still the same and yet the price of everything has gone up,” she said. “We are trying to make ends meet still but not wasting money on anything. We don’t go out in the evenings anymore, we haven’t got any new clothes made this year, we are also willing to eat less ourselves but what do you do about the children? They need to eat after all. How do you expect us to send them to bed hungry?”

When asked to raise their voices about this injustice, the woman said that she didn’t feel it was going to bring about any change. “Who cares about us? What good would our complaining do? The government will do as it pleases anyway. The only change we see now is the ‘change’ or tabdeeli we were promised. But then we didn’t realise that it was going to be a negative change and not a positive one as we were made to believe,” she said.

‘We are being crushed’

“These are just flour, lentils and rice that we are unable to afford. Having mutton at Rs1,100/kg, beef at Rs680/kg and chicken at Rs200/kg is simply unthinkable. We are told that such and such politician is in jail to pay for his corruption or whatever. But he or she are still better off in jail as they are getting better food there than the people of this country,” said a very agitated male customer. “It is just us common people who are being punished for no fault of ours. We are being crushed. Where do we go?”

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2019

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