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The wholesale and retail rate of ghee has been fixed at Rs64 and Rs70 per kg. Cooking oil rates (no.1 and no.2 qualities) have been fixed at Rs70 and Rs63 at wholesale and Rs74 and Rs66 per litre at retail. Surprisingly, the government has not indicated the brand name, thus putting the consumers in quandary.

In rice, the government has fixed wholesale rate of Rs51 per kg for kernel basmati special but its actual rate is Rs60 per kg in wholesale. Kernal super basmati is being sold at Rs52 per kg in wholesale but the price list rate is Rs48 per kg. Basmati special rate has been fixed at Rs44 per kg in wholesale while the price in the market is Rs50. Black pepper (sabut) rate has been fixed at Rs195 per kg in wholesale. The actual price is Rs120 per kg.

Executive District Officer (EDO) Enterprise and Investment Promotion, Syed Hassan Naqvi told Dawn that all stakeholders were taken into confidence while fixing prices and if anyone had reservations, they could appeal to the government. He said wholesalers and retailers will face legal action in case they were found over charging against the official list. “We are not sure whether the list will be effective for 15 days or a month. The government will see the market response. Besides, wholesale rates have been falling,” he added. The objective is to regulate prices which would help the government in fixing the rates for Ramazan, Naqvi said.

Meanwhile, the Karachi Retail Grocers Group (KRGG) and Karachi Wholesalers Grocers Association (KWGA) have rejected the city government price list. Secretary General KRGG Farid Qureishi said that the group represents over 20,000 retailers of the city and has been assisting the city government for decades in preparing and issuing price lists.

He said the city government had sidelined the KRGG and issued the list without taking them into confidence. He said this list has been issued with the help of retailers located at Water Pump, F.B. Area, carries big disparity in prices prevailing in wholesale markets compared to fixed rates. He said the wholesalers’ body has not approved the rates issued by the government.

Mr Qureshi urged the City Nazim Mustafa Kamal to take notice of the one-sided attitude of the department of Enterprise and Investment Promotion (E&IP) in issuing the list. He said retailers now feel harassed over the fines and imprisonment over the possible action the government may take against wholesalers and retailers for not complying with the official price list.

Chairman KWGA Anees Majeed said that the city government had asked the KWGA to verify the price list but the association had rejected it because of persistent decline in wholesale rates of pulses and other items. “How can the city government give the sole mandate to the Water Pump Association which does not represent the traders of the entire city,” he asked.

(By Aamir Shafaat Khan, Dawn-17, 13/03/2007)

200 trained fire fighters not fighting fire

KARACHI: Every year, Karachi witnesses over 5,000 fire incidents of varying magnitudes. The number has doubled during the last five years. The capacity of the fire brigade department, however, has not been upgraded. Moreover, over 200 trained fire fighters of the fire brigade department have been deputed to other departments and are working as gardeners, drivers, and clerical staff for the past several years, sources in the fire brigade department said.

They also said only six of these 200 such fire fighters had been sent back to the fire brigade department, despite directions issued over two months ago by the city nazim.

The population of Karachi now stands at around 15 million people. There are, however, only 21 fire stations in the city, and the staff at the two important fire stations (including Saddar) leave the stations vacant after 4 p.m. The existing fire stations have 42 vehicles, including 24 fire tenders and tow vehicles, one rescue unit, one radio mobile control unit, one command vehicle and three ambulances. These numbers fall far below what is actually required.

“The present government has been taking some serious steps to improve the performance of city’s fire brigade department,” chief fire officer, Ihtishamuddin, told Daily Times. “The issue of the ‘missing’ firemen is in the process.” Some of them have been sent back to the fire department. Ihtishamuddin did not clarify the exact numbers, however.

He also said that tenders to purchase 24 new vehicles, including fire tenders, snorkels and other necessary equipment are in the process. One snorkel and some of the fire tenders will hopefully be delivered within the next two weeks. The new snorkel will be able to work at a height of 140-150 feet. “The existing snorkels have completed their lifecycles, and are sometimes out of order,” Ihtishamuddin said.

The fire brigade department, therefore, not only has a shortage of trained personnel, but also has a lack of suitable vehicles to respond promptly to complaints.

According to international standards, there should be one fire station for a population of 100,000. This fire station is supposed to be equipped with two fire tenders, a rescue vehicle and an ambulance. Going by these requirements, Karachi currently needs at least 150 fire stations.

About two months ago, the city nazim had announced that firemen will be sent abroad for proper training, and a “reputable firm” will be hired to conduct a survey for the improvement of the fire brigade department but. So far, however, the process of selecting the four to six firemen to be sent abroad is still continuing, and is expected to be completed within the next two to three months. No steps have been taken to conduct a survey for the improvement of the fire bridge department, sources said.

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