LAHORE – Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has decided to review the wheat procurement policy on Tuesday after parliamentarians from South Punjab complained that they had no say in the wheat bag (bardana) distribution campaign as the government has computerized the whole process to ensure transparency.
According to new policy of bags issuance, the Food Department would only give bags to small farmers holding land up to ten acres whose papers could be verified by Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), Punjab Land Records Authority (PLRA) and vetted by field officers appointed by the government thus eliminating the role of local politicians who earlier managed to get bags for their voters/farmers without showing any documents.
A message was conveyed to all the Deputy Commissioners who are heading the purchase of wheat that a video link meeting will be held at the CM Office in this regard. The cabinet members and officers the Chief Secretary Punjab deputed to monitor the process would attend the meeting.
The matter was brought to Shahbaz Sharif’s notice by parliamentarians during a meeting on Monday.
“A female MNA from South Punjab along with others objected to the chief executive in a meeting on Monday that the food department didn’t cooperate with them,” said one of the participants of the meeting. The others present on the occasion also followed the suit.
When the MNAs and MPAs have no role in the ongoing wheat procurement process what good the political elite could expect from their voters in the upcoming general elections, the MPs asked.
They said that the government should relax the strict wheat procurement policy being implemented to benefit the small farmers only.
When this reporter contacted sources in the provincial food department they said that the department was following the food policy to purchase wheat from the farmers.
The department was directed to devise a policy to oblige the small farmers holding land up to ten acres.
There was no concept of ‘first come, first get’ in the ongoing process, they claimed. Earlier, the department had to entertain only those who manage to submit applications with the purchase centres first.
They said that the department for the first time not only engaged the provincial Information Technology Board but also the Punjab Board of Revenue (BoR).
The Board provided data on girdawri of the farmers that was given to the PITB and the PLRA to use it. Only those farmers who had less than ten acres were accommodated.
The data was entered into the system and then it was handed over to the PLRA that has the land data with it.
The department directed PLRA to scrutinize the formal application submitted to the department that were about 0.7 million.
On the basis of the land record data and the BoR girdawri data, some applications were rejected. Now, the department had 665,000 applications that are genuine. The department has assured all the valid applicants that they would be furnished with the bardana in the coming days.
Earlier, there was a very poor policy which led to manipulation by the middlemen who use to buy wheat from farmers on very low prices and then manage to sell it to the food department on government rates. This time all the big farmers are denied access to the distribution of bardana, claimed the officials engaged in the procurement process.
To ensure the transparency, the food department had assigned the task of monitoring to senior officers currently serving in Punjab.
The officers were directed to visit the wheat purchase centres and report to the food department.
Sources further told that the department had 3.2 million tonnes of crop with it and claimed that it would ensure 100percent target of 4 million tonnes from the farmers in the 2018.
The CM office has conveyed to all that deputy commissioners who are also leading purchase campaigns in their respective districts to organize video link meeting to be chaired by the CM Punjab.
A good number of the officers deputed in distant areas reached there on Monday evening because the CM could commence the meeting any time in the morning.
When this newspaper contacted the Secretary Food Department, Shaukat Ali, he was not available for comments.
An MPA from the ruling party on condition of anonymity said that the merit policy on wheat procurement had damaged party position in the rural areas. He said that earlier, they were fully accommodated while the government distributed loans to the farmers. The farmers, recommended by politicians could get the loans, he claimed. The parliamentarians from the ruling party and the opposition parties were on the same page about making complaints against the food department which is not ready to favour them out of the way for the issuance of bardana.
Source The Nation Javed Iqbal