LAHORE - On the first day of Ramazan, the army of 52 special price control magistrates put up a dismal show giving clean chit to price-hikers to fleece the poor due to lack of professional training, bureaucratic laxity and multifarious assignments to perform all together. Profiteers had a field day as they ripped off the poor with impunity. Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif accompanied by Lahore Division Commissioner Khusru Pervez and DCO Lahore Sajjad Ahmed Bhutta made stormy visits to Ramazan Bazaars, fair price shops and open markets to personally monitor the relief network for the people. But the spiralling prices remained the order of the day. The price control magistrates have been assigned to control price-hike in Ramazan Bazaars and different markets. However, they could not make a difference, as prices of edibles remained high in comparison with the notified rates of the government. It may be recalled the Punjab government had assigned 1,000 price control magistrates but the price of different essential commodities remained out of control. Well-placed sources in CDGL told The Nation that officers who had been awarded magisterial powers were already undertaking a number of official tasks with hectic work of their own department concerned. With the new assignment of controlling the prices, they had been more overburdened and pressure of work had distracted their attention from their original task to check price-hike, the sources maintained. A special magistrate seeking anonymity said that price control had become second priority for the magistrates due to workload with numerous jobs. He said there was no shortage of officers but the real shortage was the lack of will to take action against the price-hikers. He said controlling overcharging could only be possible with affective manpower and exemplary punishments but presently the magistrates were not given enough powers to accomplish the task. CDGL senior officers revealed that the government had appointed special magistrates to deal with the issue of price-hike but none of the designated officers were imparted necessary training to handle the job. The sources said majority of the said officers had not worked as special magistrates in the past. They did not know the law, the methodology of work of a special magistrate, holding of a summary trial and awarding punishment to the culprits on the spot, the sources said. A number of special price control magistrates had shown their disinterest to pay visits to Ramazan Bazaars. They had assigned their job to their lower staff, which submitted daily report to them that was forwarded to high authorities as a proof to their so-called performance, the sources added. The sources further said though the price-hike mafia continued to grip the city markets, price control magistrates in Shalimar Town administration did not bother to challan any shopkeepers on the first day of Ramazan. TMO Shalimar Town Malik Tariq said due to foolproof arrangements, priced remained stable and claimed the price-hikers would not be given clean chit for looting people. SA Hameed, Chairman Chief Ministers Task Force while talking to The Nation said the government was determined to bring down the prices of essential edibles including vegetables and fruits across the province.