LAHORE: The Punjab Food Department has asked the provincial government to set up check posts at entry points of the motorways and depute Rangers to stop illegal transportation of wheat.
The move comes after reports that thousands of sacks of wheat have been smuggled from Punjab to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa every day with the purchase price reaching Rs1,600 per maund.
Earlier, motorway authorities Authorities rejected Punjab government's written request to set up check posts on the motorways. They said there was no provision in the country's law to set up such checkpoints on motorways.
After the refusal of the motorway police, the food department has asked the provincial government to set up check posts at the entry points and to seek deployment of the paramilitary Rangers to curb illegal transportation of wheat.
Wheat production estimated at 25.16 million tons
The ongoing smuggling and a new method adopted by the middlemen and hoarders of storing wheat in the homes of farmers instead of godowns of storing wheat in the homes of small farmers instead of godowns has made it difficult for Punjab Food Department to achieve its procurement target of 4.5 million tonnes.
Food department officials have increased procurement targets for the districts of south Punjab. It is also expected that some district food controllers may be transferred because of their poor performance.
The Punjab government had announced sealing of the provincial border to meet its procurement target along with imposing a ban on flour mills transporting wheat from one district to another within the province.
However, the smuggler mafia has reportedly begun using the motorway for illegal transportation of wheat. A large number of vehicles loaded with wheat are using various entry points of Punjab for smuggling wheat to Peshawar.
The motorway entry point at Hafizabad is mostly used for the purpose while routes leading from Bhakkar to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are also being used by the smugglers, allegedly after paying bribe to some officials.
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Two days ago, the Punjab Home Department sent a letter to the motorway authorities on the recommendation of the food department, seeking permission to set up check posts on the motorways to curb wheat smuggling.
However, the motorway authorities rejected the request, saying there is no scope in their law to set up such check posts.
After the refusal of the motorway police, the Punjab government has started consultation to set up check posts at the entrances of motorways in Punjab after deploying Rangers with the support of the district administrations and food department. A decision in this regard is expected on Wednesday.
The government has imposed a complete ban on the purchase of wheat by any individual or company other than the Food Department, flour mills in the province and Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (PASSCO) but hoarders and middlemen have started using new methods of hoarding wheat.
The profiteers are illegally storing wheat in the homes of the farmers or their relatives The administration cannot raid such homes without concrete justification.
Punjab fails to achieve wheat purchase target
Due to high production of wheat in south Punjab, the Punjab food director has raised the procurement targets of wheat-producing districts while directing all officers to continue distribution of gunny bags.
The food department has sent a summary to the cabinet seeking permission to purchase used gunny bags for at Rs3 each, while jute sacks are sold for Rs30 each.
Sources said the food controllers of some districts are likely to be suspended for poor performance. The food department has distributed 23 million sacks among 75,000 farmers, while seven million sacks of wheat have been procured.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2020.
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