Sale of flood-contaminated commodities haunts City

Consumers worried, markets down; KTMF for confidence building measures; DDC assures action

When a leading medical store at Hazuri Bagh that would witness beeline of shoppers, was caught selling flood-hit medicines and baby food by authorities, the news shocked many. But since then there has rarely been any decline in the complaints that flood-hit commodities are being sold in the flood ravaged summer capital.
While consumers are worried on procurements -fearing the lot could be flood-hit –this scare has affected the business in the City where the commercial hub of Lal Chowk and its adjoining areas are yet to emerge out of the devastation.

Complaints first
While sale of flood hit medicines is already under scanner, the consumers alleged that other products are equally feared to be contaminated.
Ghulam Ahmed, who visited SMHS Hospital for OPD consultation avoided to drink tap water. “Though I am a poor man I managed Rs 15 to buy to a mineral water bottle. But to my shock apart from lid, silt was visible even inside the bottle and I instantly threw it away,” the man complained adding the concerned have failed to keep check on the sale of contaminated lot.
For Tanveera Begum, shocker came when the Daal packet she procured from Hazratbal market turned out to be fetid on opening. Consumers fear that same is true for spices and other edibles.
A south City man said his neighbor, whose shop was devastated in floods left his deluged grocery stock including tea to dry in the lawns for sales again. “Since then I have pledged never to buy anything from his shop,” the man complained adding though he silently informed police, no action was taken.
Market players on the other hand said the inspection of medical stores remained biased. “Some leading dealers and distributors were spared only because they happen to be influential otherwise many big fish could have been caught.”

Cold drink concern
Sources said soon after the floods receded, a leading cold drink brand send fresh packaging material to its dealers asking them to replace the affected consignment packing with fresh labeling.
Insiders said the flood hit bottles are being sold in the markets with fresh labeling. “Otherwise if the company was so serious about the health of people of Kashmir, it should have asked the dealers to destroy the lot on the spot. Why repacking?” asked an official in know of the matter.
Though Srinagar Municipal Corporation Health Officer Dr Rubeena Shaheen admitted that complaint came to her notice, over the past two weeks the SMC has allegedly failed to act. “We are looking into the matter,” the Health Officer told Greater Kashmir.

Business down
Market pundits said “Because of the mischief by a few black-sheep, the entire business fraternity was earning a bad name.” “Things are getting generalized and business people from other regions like Jammu are getting benefited out of this conspiracy,” said a leading businessman adding “Reality is that some non local firms which took the flood-hit consignments back, repacked it for fresh sales.”
Observers said there was a dire need to “rebuild the market confidence”. During his recent interview to 92.7 Big FM, former bureaucrat Farooq Renzu Shah replied similar questions posed by RJ Haya. Renzu who has served as SMC Commissioner in the past said administration could come up with a “foolproof trader-friendly mechanism to nib the evil before it destroys Srinagar business.”
“The ideal remedy is that a team of senior officials from various departments conduct a joint exercise to destroy the flood hit lot by maintaining a video footage of each and every inspection as evidence,” he said.
“But every trader be issued proper certificate for looses which he or she suffered in destroying the lot. And that certificate be treated as bank guarantee or could be paid as compensation in later stage,” Renzu said adding this way no trader would be hesitant to destroy the flood hit commodities.

KTMF concerned
The Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation President Muhammad Yasin Khan while expressing serious concern over the issue said collective efforts were needed to clear the air over such complaints.
“Primarily in a City like Srinagar, the consumer has trust relation of years with shopkeeper. Consumer knows his trusted shopkeeper. May be 10 percent of people( shopkeepers could be resorting to malpractice), but his cannot be generalized,” Khan said.
“Moreover,” he said, “there were some commodities like shoes, readymade garments, textiles and even some medicines, which could be identified by any human eye of being or not flood hit.” “It is visible whether the thing is flood hit or not.”
Sharing some tips, Khan insisted: “Primarily my request to shoppers is to ensure taking bill for the purchases. Bill is very important.” “They should also look into package labeling, cartons etc.”
To a question that some traders have been found cleaning the flood hit lot for sales, Yasin said it was a serious issue. “It should be the worst of the people,” he said.
He appealed the traders’ fraternity not to resort to any malpractice. “Such mischief of duping the customer with flood hit lot is legally, socially, morally, religiously all the way wrong. If someone dupes flood victims, he could someday be sufferer of something even worse than floods.”

DDC speaks
District Development Commissioner Farooq Ahmed Shah said the administration was already active on market inspections. “Our teams have been active and we didn’t spare anyone caught resorting to any malpractice. And for the sake of transparency before the people, we have been ensuring that names and other details of the offenders are made public.”
Shah, however, said the market inspection was being further intensified. “In the coming days more Task Forces will be constituted and there are some highly confidential plans, which beforehand cannot be shared,” he said.