Karachi (PPI) - Rates of almost all daily-use items, especially kitchen commodities, have started souring as the traditional pre-Ramzan price hike has hit Karachi in the first week of Shaaban. The mighty mafia of hoarders and profiteers, enjoying full covert support of the corrupt bureaucracy, has set eyes on record profits this Ramzan season, at the cost of hapless consumers. The departments and bodies assigned tasks to stabilise prices of daily-use commodities are making a mockery of tall claims of the government regarding facilitating poor masses. The rate of wheat flour has risen by Rs4 to Rs 5 per Kg in retail market. Sugar, one of the most sought after kitchen item in Shaaban and Ramzan is being sold at Rs48-50 per kg. Chicken price has jumped to Rs190-200 per kg, while beef and mutton rates enjoy push up to Rs15 Rs20 per kg, depending on locality. The rate of fresh milk has witnessed a rise of Rs2 to Rs3 per liter, while vegetables and fruits are being sold at almost double rates, as compared to last week. Rates of pulses, cooking oil, rice and cereals have also enjoyed substantial upward push. Contrary to the expectations of people the rates of essential commodities in the country are on fire after coming into power of the present elected democratic government. It is said that due to harsh conditionalities of costly foreign loans the present rulers are not taking drastic measures to intervene into market forces to stabilise rates of essential commodities. The idea of giving subsidies to facilitate poor people is said to be against the capitalist philosophy of international lender organisations. Thus the very concept of a people-friendly welfare society seemed dying in Pakistan. In past poor people used to get some relief through the Utility Stores Corporation, which was formed with an aim to provide daily-use commodities at affordable rates; however, the funding for this vital entity is constantly dwindling even in the era of elected government and now there is very little difference in the rates of goods being sold at the utility stores and in open market. This policy is against the very rationale of the Utility Stores Corporation of Pakistan that is to provide basic commodities to general public on the rates which are lower than the rates in open market. It may be noted that Utility Stores Corporation of Pakistan was established in 1971 by taking over 20 retail outlets from the Staff Welfare Organisation. Passing through various stages of expansion and reorganisation, the Corporation at present is operating some 5700 stores all over the country. Utility Stores Corporations objectives include protection of real income of people by selling essential consumer items at prices lower than those prevailing in the open market. Price moderation in the market and deterrence to profiteering, hoarding and black marketing. Sadly, due to anti-people policies adopted to placate international lending bodies like IMF and World Bank, the organisations like Utility Stores Corporation of Pakistan are unable to provide relief to poor consumers. Like other developing countries the food inflation has been the main driver of the price hike in Pakistan. Usually, the poor spend about half of their income on food. As such, the consistent and rapid increase in prices of food items has been directly hurting the poor in Pakistan. It is necessary to provide essential food items to the poor masses in order to check food riots and other political upheavals. It is worth noting that when the ruling Q-League had lost the February 2008 election, TIME wrote that Musharrafs party lost the election because of the price of flour and food. It is an accepted standard in the civilised countries to provide essential commodities to people at reduced prices on their important festivals and occasion, but in Pakistan the cruel profiteers and hoarders are let loose to fleece consumers on the occasion of Holy Ramzan and Eid. The city government claims sending special magistrates to market to conduct raids on profiteers and hoarders, but the net result is zero. Only cosmetic actions are taken against some retailers, while big fish like sugar and flour millers, wholesale grain traders and big commercial enterprises are never touched. Citizens demand that the government should take the notice of cruel pre-Ramzan price hike and ensure solid and practical measures to stabilise the prices of eatables and kitchen commodities. The price lists issued by the city government should be strictly implemented, and gap between the demand and supply in both wholesale and retail markets bridged to stabilized the prices of daily-use items. It is also necessary that besides 'Ramzan package rates of all items at the Utilities Stores Corporation be reduced by giving sufficient subsidy to the corporation. In order to bring down the prices of food items to provide relief to common man, the government has to take some specific major steps like banning exports of all food items including vegetables, pulses, fruits as well as eliminating all taxes particularly the import duty and sales tax on food items as has been done by Turkey, China, Argentina, Sri Lanka, Morocco and other. Reduction in the petroleum prices will also lead to reduction in transportation cost and help alleviating food inflation.