LAHORE: A general debate started in the House on Monday on the provincial government’s wheat procurement drive. In his opening remarks, Food Minister Bilal Yasin said that before the inauguration of the procurement drive the government had 2.1 million metric tonnes of wheat in stock from last season. He said the chief minister had still directed the departments concerned to proceed with the procurement drive and set a four million metric tonnes target for them. He said soft loans of Rs13 billion were arranged for the purpose.
Yaseen said that so far the government had procured between three and three-and-a-half million metric tones of wheat.
He said the first five days of the campaign had been reserved for procurement from farmers with landholding of 12.5 acres or less. He said this year the number of gunny bags distributed among farmers had been increased from eight bags per acre to 10 bags per acre.
He said officials at the wheat collection centres had been directed to give a day’s notice to farmers for collection of gunny bags so that they didn’t have to wait all day at the centre.
He said the number of farmers registered with the government this year was 100,000 more than last year. He said Revenue Department officials were not included in the procurement drive to ensure transparency.
Yaseen said so far the government had received around 1,400 complaints about the procurement drive. He said action had been taken to address these complaints.
PML-Q member Sardar Vickas Hassan Mokal said steps taken by the government were not sufficient even to manage procurement of 4,000 metric tonnes of wheat. He said middlemen were fleecing small farmers who lacked resources to transport their wheat to the government centres. He suggested that closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras should be installed at procurement centers to prevent corrupt practices.
PTI member Ahmad Khan Bhachhar said that it was impossible for farmers across the province to bring four million metric tonnes of wheat to the procurement centres in a month’s time. He said middlemen had stocked their godowns and they would now sell the wheat to the government. “I have sold my crop at Rs1,030 per maund to a contractor. The government should make arrangements to ensure that farmers can sell their crop directly to it,” he said.
Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said arrangements were in place to facilitate farmers. He said if there were some gaps they should be fixed next year.
Speaker Rana Muhamamd Iqbal, then, directed that matters pertaining to the procurement campaign be discussed in detail at the Agriculture Committee so that all flaws could be sorted out.
On Monday, the provincial Assembly unanimously passed a resolution condemning the United States drone strike that is believed to have killed Afghan Taliban’s chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour near the Iran-Pakistan border in Balochistan.
The resolution was tabled by Leader of Opposition Mahmoodur Rasheed. “The drone strike concerns the sovereignty of Pakistan. It is an attack on Pakistan’s autonomy and independence. This House demands that the federal government summon the US Ambassador in Pakistan to record its protest over the matter. The government should ensure that in future the US refrains from carrying out such attacks on the Pakistani territory,” the resolution said.
The question hour included discussion on the Revenue and Colonies Department affairs.
The session was adjourned till Tuesday (today) morning.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2016.