“Since the price hike, many families in Kashmir are breaking fast with only a glass of water and eat salt-rice in Suhoor.”
AZHAR Malik would get busy preparing food kits for the needy families with the start of Ramazan in Kashmir, but the rising inflation this time around is giving him a hard time.
Along with his team members at Hyemath—the NGO he founded during Pandemic—this young Samaritan from Srinagar finds it hard to manage and distribute ration kits and iftar essentials among the underprivileged families.
“One can clearly see distress in Kashmir during this Ramazan,” Azhar says. “The soaring food prices are only making it worse. A food kit worth Rs. 2300 last year now costs us Rs 3200.”
The prices of daily use commodities including fuel, fruits, milk, meat, vegetables, cooking oil and dairy products have been rising dramatically since the start of the 30-day-long fasting period in the Muslim-majority region.
“Cooking oil has been priced at Rs.1200 from last year’s Rs.900. Dates which used to cost us Rs.300 last year, have been priced at Rs. 600-800 this year. With such soaring prices, it’s beyond imagination that a middle class family can purchase these essentials.”
Azhar isn’t alone feeling the heat of the inflation. Homemaker Shabnum is equally bearing the brunt of the blistering bazar.
“Inflation has dulled the usual Ramazan fervour in Kashmir this time around,” Shabnum, a resident of Srinagar, said.
“Government should have at least stepped up in this holy month to check the market menace, but it seems hardly anyone cares about the public welfare in Kashmir these days.”
In the backdrop of the ire over inflation, Kashmir Observer did a quick market survey and found out that one dozen bananas, one kilogram melon, one kilogram of grapes are being sold from Rs.100-Rs.220, which many say are beyond a commoner’s pocket strength.
Besides this, meat is being sold at Rs. 700 per kg at many places, while chicken has already touched Rs. 200 per kilogram.
“One kilogram of chili was Rs. 250 last year, but now the same costs us Rs. 320,” says Saheem Ashraf Bhat, Co-founder Covid Resource, an NGO that has provided leads to distressed patients for oxygen cylinders in the second wave of Covid.
“There has been an approximate increase of Rs. 400 on essential items in this Ramazan.”
With the prices on essential items increasing unceasingly, many locals including Saheem assert that the distressed situation has left many underprivileged families in lurch.
“Since the price hike, many families in Kashmir are breaking fast with only a glass of water and eat salt-rice in Suhoor,” claims Saheem with a distressed tone.
With the same dejected tone, Sameer Ahmed, a resident of Rajbagh, says that the price spike has made his monthly budget difficult.
“Why isn’t the government curbing these exorbitant hikes in the price of daily essentials,” Sameer wonders.
“There has been a 50 percent increase in the price of cooking oil. Oil is the basic necessity but the way its price is soaring, it looks as if we’ve to stop consuming oil.”
Abdul Majeed, a retired teacher from Sopore, says that the administration has failed to curb prices and act against the violators.
“We’re paying 40% extra amount on essential items this year,” he says. “And government is doing absolutely nothing about it.”
However, admitting that an unruly inflation has dampened the spirit of Ramazan in Kashmir this year, Dr. Abdul Salam Mir, Director, Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, told Kashmir Observer that the department has already started its drive against violators.
“The items that come from outside Kashmir like chili have a fixed rate, but when it comes to items like fruits, vegetables, chicken, and meat, there is a fixed rate provided by the Department to the seller,” Mir said.
Since the start of Ramazan, Mir said, the Department has been receiving several complaints from people about a sudden price hike.
“This is a violation and the department won’t tolerate it,” he said.
“Several violators have already been dealt with under certain provisions of law. And in the coming days, all the violations will be dealt with accordingly.”
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Zaid Bin Shabir
Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir