The menace of black marketing, hoarding and illegal profiteering Kashmir has become a normal phenomenon and people by and large have settled down well with this otherwise unhealthy and filthy practice prevalent universally in the valley markets. Any outcry against the menace is limited to occasional media reporting which sometimes trigger few scanty market checks by the concerned authorities. However this also is confined and limited to few occasions like festivals or prolonged road blockades, when the menace invariably touches higher marks makes people feel the pinch for a while.
The menace is more prevalent with the daily used commodities like vegetables, fruits, milk, mutton, eggs and other poultry products. There is no doubt the rate structure of these commodities never remain static owing to seasonal effects and consumption levels. The dynamism in the price structure thus affected is an acceptable phenomenon everywhere. But in Kashmir this dynamism acquires dangerously unhealthy proportions owing to the frequent blockade of the Jammu-Srinagar highway which as of now continues to be the only lifeline of the valley. Almost entire basket of edibles of daily and routine consumption comes to the valley via this road only. The frequent blockades of this highway invariably results in not only the shortage of these essential consumables, but also triggers hoarding and, black-marketing which finally results in sky rocketing of the prices. The problem has become an irrationally established reason for all the pricing related ills in the market. Surprisingly, rates always fail to regain the earlier ground after the restoration of the highway. As of now no government has found any remedy for the menace. If the morality is infected, no law is effective to treat it.
Overcharging has thus become the rightful way of doing business in the valley. Unfortunately the phenomenon assumes larger dimensions in the holy month of Ramadan, and during the festival days. In the big markets and shopping malls, the loot is being glamorized under the cover the religious philanthropy. What a pity that the Ramadan loot is carried side-by-side with extraordinary enthusiasm and rush for Namaz at all five times a day!
The story is same in every market and at every shop selling essential day-to-day commodities, particularly the unpacked loose food items. We do find rate list at almost every place, be it the poultry store, the vegetable shop, the milk shop or the any other store. But it will entitle itself to be called a rarest of rare cases if the rate in the list is followed by any shopkeeper. You ask any shopkeeper about the rate list. The uniform reply will be “Government chhu pagal, Asi kati chhe barabari”. More often than not, the customer is forced to compensate the shopkeeper the loss which he may run into due to any breakage or transportation or storage.
Kashmir over the years has developed a unique market culture of making a mockery of rate list in almost all segments of business, more so in those related to day to day commodities and consumables. Rate list, issued from time to time by the competent authority, CAPD (Food and Civil Supplies), though displayed by many shopkeepers is more often than not treated as an irrelevant piece of paper. Criminally dismissed by sellers and docilely overlooked by the customers, the rate list is treated alike by both the parties as if obliged to do so. We, as the customers have also become contended and complacent with the situation and never challenge the rate thrown by the shop keeper. We don’t give a damn even if we see that the same commodity is sold at different rates in the same market.
Here the rate is offered as per the choice of the seller and the profile of the customer, (whether customer is male, female, old, young, soft looking or hard featured, known, unknown, own customer or a stray one) , time of the day , location of the market and demand of the commodity.
While as you are forced to pay extra through your nose, the area where the merchandize is placed remains a prohibited area for the customer and no trespassing what so ever is permitted. “Athha mahez lag” (don’t touch) is the stern warning if you dare touch something to check its quality. You are liable to take a mixture of ripe and raw, small and big, and spoiled pieces along with few good ones. “Ye haz chhui nuin. Nata kati chhe barabari.” He manages to put a gordian knot on the polythene bag much before you protest.
The way we have totally surrendered to this unholy trend of profiteering, the menace has become an established mode of business. The seller has no remorse and the buyer has no regrets. Isn’t it criminal for both the parties? If one party is perpetuating the curse, the other is encouraging it by silently accepting it. May be it is because both the parties are sailing in the same boat in their own domains of jobs and businesses.
Kashmir, like any other place in the country has a full-fledged department of Consular Affairs and Public Distribution, CAPD. The department is meant for protecting the rights of consumers and to command its authority in its domain of control over the market behavior particularly with regards to quality of the merchandize and the genuineness of the prices.
However, the department actually is conspicuous by its absence. Any sign of its existence comes into sight during an occasional public or media outcry. The effect of presence vanishes as fast as it appears. The department has failed miserably to establish the rule of law it claims to be in charge of enforcing. Whether it is the weakness in the laws or the enforcing department, the fact is nobody has any fear of either.
Somehow, it must also be acknowledged that the personnel of the department cannot be present at all places and all occasions. We expect others to help us without trying to help ourselves. Our inclination is always to keep the shopkeeper in good humor knowing fully he is not reciprocating in the same coin. We generally buy as if asking for a charity. Unless we resist the malicious acts of overcharging and underweighting, nobody will be able to help us.
We are a predominantly Muslim majority society but unfortunately we are the worst culprits of denial of our own Islamic teachings. The teachings which should have been the ideal driving force in the day to day activities of our lives are conveniently being overlooked and ignored for small and petty worldly gains. Islam teaches us to uphold honesty in all commercial dealings, as much as it guides us in our personal affairs. Honesty in commercial dealings is more strictly enjoined by Islam than by any other religion.
Islamic laws are as effectively operative in our commerce and business as in our domestic life and social relations. That is the reason why perfect honesty in business and truthfulness in trade are much emphasized by the Holy Prophet (S.A.W). It will not be an overstatement to say that absolute honesty in business and commerce is really an Islamic concept. A true Islamic society is based upon honesty, justice and fraternity, and is absolutely intolerant of dishonesty in all its various forms.
Islam is unequivocal in its condemnation of commercial dishonesty. It denounced, in the strongest possible terms, all sorts of deceitful dealings and illegal profits. It has disallowed all transactions not based upon justice and fair play The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), while reprimanding the dishonest dealer, said: “Whosoever deceives us is not one of us”.
Hazrat Jabir related that the Prophet, PBUH said: ‘May Allah show mercy to a man who is kind when he sells, when he buys, and when he makes a claim.’ (Bukhari).