KATHMANDU, August 23:Festive season is round the corner, and like in the past, vegetable prices have skyrocketed. But a special market monitoring has found nothing substantial in its two-week-long joint monitoring squad of ten government agencies led by Department of Supply Management and Protection of Consumers Interests (DoSMPCI).
The monitoring that was wrapped on Sunday found only minor discrepancies in the quality of goods and services and prices mainly in few pharmacies and meat shops. Almost all sweet shops and restaurants are seemingly serving hygienic food and their kitchens are clean. However, consumer activists say this is not the fact.
Unlike in the previous years, the list of monitored shops and enterprises provided in the daily report in the department's website are of small size, mostly small eateries and pharmacies. The department concluded that everything was normal except for a few discrepancies. But consumer activists are not ready to accept it, who point out error in sampling for monitoring.
In the past years, the department used to monitor large shops including meat shops, sweet shops, restaurants, groceries and department stores. Several of them were then sealed for selling substandard goods and unhygienic food among others. Reports of sweets shops and restaurants selling unhygienic food are seemingly things of the pasts.
Consumer activists have blamed the market monitors for doing their jobs only for the sake of monitoring. They (consumer activists) said that only small shops were monitored, leaving out big names and big shops. “The monitoring only focused on small window shops and eateries,” said Bishnu Prasad Timilsina, secretary of Consumers' Welfare Protection Forum.
Timilsina, who also participated in the market monitoring, said, “We cannot say that the goods and services available in the market are of standard quality and maintain hygiene.”
Market prices of vegetables have doubled in a span of two weeks. Few stockists of cereals and cooking oil products have taken hold of the market but they are never monitored, Timilsina said.
Department's director Laxman Shrestha said that the joint monitoring team has carried out monitoring in addition to regular monitoring activity and they have made public the reports of monitoring every day.
The sweet shops and restaurants in the valley are serving hygienic foods, Shrestha tried to come clean saying that their regular monitoring continues.
The agencies involved in the monitoring include Department of Food Technology and Quality Control, Nepal Bureau of Standards & Metrology, Department of Livestock Services among others.
The forum's executives said they met Minister for Supplies Shiva Kumar Mandal on Monday and drew his attention for effective monitoring. Forum's chairman Jyoti Baniya blamed Minister Mandal as not being serious towards market monitoring.
“The minister has little idea about market monitoring. Probably he was never in the parliamentary committees dealing with consumer issues,” said Baniya, suggesting that the ministers should have at least worked in the related committees, which is a common practice in the developed countries.
Maximum number of health and medicine sector sealed
Maximum businesses categorized under health and medicine sector have been sealed in the joint market monitoring by the Department of Supply Management and Protection of Consumers Interest (DSMPCI) with ten regulatory bodies and consumers associations.
Clinics located in Kathmandu Valley like Dharan Dental, Boudha Dental and Riddhi Siddhi Polyclinic, Jugal Dental, Kavre, Dakchin Barahi Health, Bhaktapur have been operating without permission from District Public Health Office.
Similarly other clinics in Kathmandu like Dental Wood Clinic had been operating without registering. Upachar Medical hall had been in operation without renewing its license for 24 years and Akhanda polyclinic had been giving lab reports to people who were leaving for foreign employment without conducting any lab test.
During the monitoring, goods past expiry date and stale meat items had been disposed and 158 public vehicles were penalized Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 for charging excess fare to the passengers.
However, in the penalized category there are very few big businesses included. Saleways - Cash and Carry at Budhanilkantha was found to be selling dairy milk chocolates priced more than the actual price and some goods were found to be past the expiry date. Likewise, Hotel Malla and Dairy Development Corporation were found to be lagging behind in hygiene and sanitation, whereas Bhatbhateni supermarket was directed to store date-expired items separately.
According to DSMPCI, “Of the 798 monitored businesses, 13 businesses were shut down.” The ten day monitoring was done in 44 food and mart, 70 health and medicine firms, 91 fruits and vegetables traders, 43 construction materials and petroleum products, 70 hotel and restaurants, among other sectors from Aug 6 to Aug 18.