Karachi milkmen are keeping alive the century-old seer measurement
The decimal system was introduced in Pakistan decades ago but milk sellers in Karachi seem not to have received the memo to switch to liters. Instead, they have kept alive the seer measurement—because it is more profitable.
Milk sellers save 50 ml of an order by using the seer, which gives them an additional benefit of at least Rs6.5 per liter. And most customers have no idea this is happening because they think they are buying milk by a liter. However, a seer is 950ml.
The decimal system of measurement was introduced in Pakistan in January 1961, after which the scale for measuring cloth was changed from yards to meters. The weight of solids was changed from seer to kilograms and the measure of liquids was changed from seers to liters.
Under the decimal system, a kilogram was one thousand grams. A seer used to measure solids that were 1.25kg. And a mann was 50kg. Today a mann is taken as 40kg by the way. Even after the kilogram was introduced, however, you’d find people in the countryside still using the old equivalencies for a long time.
Under this system, the scale of liters for measuring liquids was equivalent to one thousand milliliters. But the old jug weighed 950 ml.
Initially, it was expected that milk sellers would replace their old scales but they kept them because it gave them a 50ml advantage.
In Karachi, almost half of the milk sellers cheat people by mixing seer and liters. Milkmen who deliver at the doorstep use the seer. In informal settlements they provide milk cheaper than market rates by using the seer and watering down the milk.
In middle-class localities such as Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Nazimabad, Gulistan-e-Johar, milk sellers use both measurements.
The official per liter price is Rs94 but shops sell milk for Rs130. They make Rs6.5 on the top for every liter they sell as they use the seer and give 50ml less to customers. Small shop owners sell at least a mann (40kg) of milk while bigger shops manage to sell a lot more. This comes to around Rs260 per mann extra.
The cycle doesn’t end here. Wholesalers have their own scams. The can that they used to supply milk is supposed to weigh a mann. But it actually contains just 37.5 liters and they charge for 37.5 liters.
People in thedairy business say 40 liter cans are being used in Hyderabad but in Karachionly 5% uses it.
Dairy farmers have been pushing for the larger can for quite some time but wholesalers do not agree as it would mean using fewer cans. This would affect their bottom line.
Abdul Waheel Gaddi, the spokesperson for the All Karachi Retailers Welfare Association, told SAMAA Digital that not all retailers cheat customers but there are black sheep everywhere. We have flagged this but it is actually the duty of the Weights and Measurement Department to check the equipment, he said. But they don’t even have offices which is why everyone seems to be doing what they want.