When the half-crescent appears in the western sky to announce the advent of the holy month of Ramadan, some of our fellow traders see it as a golden pendant hanging there, while others perceive it as a dollar bill. . They feel the money, a lot, coming their way. Like a pack of predators, they come together to strategize to launch their attack on the general public. This is the month to go for the big kill, so they need to make the most of the situation. This is THE month of blessings for them. They sing praises. They dance in ecstasy.
Traders and their goons in Bangladesh are busy collecting import licenses, delivery notes, permits, customs clearance certificates, etc., and filling their warehouses, godowns, warehouses, rooms, bathrooms , living rooms and even the empty space under their beds with onions, pulses, spices, sugar, milk powder, salt, cooking oil, dresses, sarees, cosmetics, etc., targeting the Eid market. Their couriers scour land borders and river routes to collect garments from India with eye-catching labels, mimicking popular TV dramas in Bengali and Hindi.
During the last minute shopping spree until midnight before the dawn of Eid, a sequined lehenga or an embellished dress can sell for between Tk 3 lakh to Tk 5 lakh, which a week ago was only sold than for 20,000-50,000 Tk.
You see, these are times when you shouldn’t be stingy with shopping, especially at the last moment before Eid. When you have unexplained money and a big heart (don’t mind the three blocks), the cunning shopkeeper knows how to treat you. As he notices the layers of gold necklaces around your neck and bracelets on your hand, his nose starts to twitch and he uses his best weapon, “Apa, I saved this dress/sari for you only. I haven’t shown it to And I know you’re the only person who can afford it You melt like wax and pull wads of cash out of your bag.
Ramadan in this country sees a spooky frenzy of raising the price of everything. Literally everything. Even dirt isn’t cheap this month. You risk choking on a small piece of cucumber if you forget to ask for its price before putting it in your mouth. Your vision may get blurry hearing the price of a pair of lemons. If you wear a pacemaker, you avoid approaching the part of the kitchen market where beef, mutton and chicken (poultry) are sold. But you still get the jolt when you ask for the price of a kg of small fish like bata or tengra.
Ready-made iftar items look delicious from afar, and you remember Aesop’s tale “The Jackal and the Grapes”. The simple fact of daring to buy a pair of Begini can spoil your appetite. The Old Dhaka people are known for their wit and repartee. They know who has the buying power. So, to keep people like us away, they named an iftar item Boro Baaper Polai Khai, which means only rich sons can afford it. What an insult to our middle class pride.
While our trade brethren in Bangladesh blithely raise the price of everything during Ramadan, we are told that this does not happen in every country. Here is a recent article from a Malaysian daily: “Government will extend Keluarga Malaysia sales program throughout Ramadan to allow people to buy basic necessities at lower prices,” the trade minister said. Interior and Consumption, Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi. added that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob gave the green light to the Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Affairs for the program to continue. The program was due to end this month, but the KPDNHEP recently wrote to the Prime Minister (to request an extension). The ministry was allowed to continue the program (until the end of Ramadan). We need to tweak (some details) to make it more comprehensive and easier to implement” (The Borneo Post, March 26, 2022).
A commendable step by the Malaysian government, no doubt.
In Bangladesh, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi recently said that the Deputy Commissioners (DCs) have been ordered to strictly monitor the prices of basic necessities, set by the government for the holy month so that it does not there is no unusual increase.
The Commerce Minister said, “I have told DCs that the month of Ramadan is coming, we will fix the prices of some essential items in the markets.”
We can only hope that the CDs will find the time to do this follow-up in addition to doing more demanding administrative work and attending important meetings. Selling some essential products directly to the poor is a commendable step taken by the government. But, as usual, the middle class remains off the government’s radar.
It is widely believed that the prices of almost everything go down during the puja in West Bengal. Our personal experience of visiting Kolkata during festivals backs up this claim. It is possible that store owners believe in the theory of “sell more to earn more” on such occasions, which from an economic point of view is a sound practice.
Ramadan is the month of fasting from dawn to dusk to contain one’s desires, lusts and gluttony. So don’t just show the world that you are fasting. Show that you have succeeded in chaining your weaknesses, as commanded in the scriptures. This is not the month to earn extra profits at the cost of human suffering. This is the month to give away all the extra profits you have earned throughout the year.
Shahnoor Wahid is a seasoned journalist.