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However, the milk-sellers did not abide by their commitment and continued to sell milk at higher rates, Rs34 per litre and even in some area at Rs36 per litre. The sellers also sold yogurt at Rs48 per kg although its official price is Rs40 per kg.

Prior to the recent sudden increase the milk was being sold at Rs30 to Rs32 per kg instead of the official rates of Rs28 in the city.

Despite the city government’s much publicised and orchestrated campaign against the price hike, milk-sellers have been constantly flouting the official prices of milk for many months.

Despite their promise to sell milk at official rates on Friday, prices of dairy products have not come down and it seems that the milk-sellers are not mentally prepared to decrease the prices and they are flexing their mussels to contend what the city nazim described during the Friday meeting with the city government.

When contacted a city government official said the revenue department had also started a campaign against profiteers and so far 40 milk-sellers had been sent to jail, while 150 people were fined a total of Rs250,000 during the last two days.

He said 36 deputy district officers having magisterial powers visiting the markets and dairy farms which was the root-cause of the recent price hike.

“As the city government and milk-sellers have reached an agreement for 10 days for selling milk at the official rates, therefore, the revenue department has not been taking stern action but efforts are being made to maintain the prices with light punishment," he said, adding: "If the milk-sellers will not follow official prices to be fixed by the committee in the next 10 days, a crackdown will be conducted against them”.

A citizen, Qazi Ishaq, remarked that the issue would not be solved unless the city government eliminated the role of the middlemen and got struck at a yearly deal between the dairy farmers and retailers.

A total of eight million litre of milk is consumed in Karachi everyday. Out of it, 60 per cent is provided by the local farmers while 40 per cent comes from the interior of the province.

A major quantity of the milk is supplied to the retailers through the middlemen who are guarantor between retailers and dairy farmers as the former is not in a position to pay cash in time.

Taking this advantage, the middlemen buy milk from dairy farmers and sell out with their profit to retailers on a credit basis, which increases the burden on consumers.

It is suggested that open auction of milk be held daily so that the middlemen and dairy farmers, who have monopoly on the business, may not increase the prices illegally.

(Dawn-19, 07/01/2007)

Another shortcut to nowhere

Following the tumultuous privatisation of PTCL in June 2005, the new management of the company has been understandably hesitant to publicly disclose its plans vis a vis downsizing. This is not to suggest that the majority of PTCL's 90,000 workers are not aware of the long-term agenda to slash half the workforce; it was after all the very real threat of retrenchment that precipitated the historic strike prior to privatisation. Subsequently the new management refused to complete the deal as it was originally agreed and it was only once the government committed to sharing responsibility for dealing with worker unrest that the sale was completed.

In the 18 months since PTCL has been privatised the new management has made quite clear its intentions to let go of as many workers as possible. Almost 2,000 daily wagers were let go from a PTCL subsidiary, the Telecom Foundation a few months ago. Now it appears as if the management is set to announce a comprehensive scheme that will 'encourage' workers to accept voluntary retirement packages, or what is commonly known as the 'golden handshake'.

Reports suggest that the management hopes to make up to 30,000 workers redundant through the so-called voluntary separation scheme (VSS), although it is highly doubtful that more than a few thousand -- and those too that are already approaching retirement age -- will actually take up the offer. Needless to say the management probably has contingency plans in place to 'encourage' reluctant workers to accept the VSS, or if worse comes to worse, there can always be resort to state repression of the kind that was used to crush the strike.

In recent times, the government's almost messianic privatisation agenda has suffered a few hiccups, most notably with the Supreme Court's decision to annul the sale of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM). Yet the highly fragmented nature of political opposition to the government's rabid neo-liberal drive means that instances such as the PSM annulment are little more than public relations blips. There has, for example, been little response to the government's recent announcement to put the PSM up for sale once again. Similarly little reaction has followed the prime minister's disclosure that Pakistan State Oil (PSO) too will soon be privatised.

One of the major reasons for the government's ability to blow off what should otherwise be major setbacks to its privatisation push is that the official justifications for privatisation -- to the extent that officialdom even bothers to put any forward -- are not forcefully refuted through a historicized argument that acknowledges our colonial past, the economic structure that we inherited and its subsequent evolution, and the inherent similarity of our experience to the majority of post-colonial states. It is only by undertaking a holistic analysis with these factors in mind that the reality of

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