LAHORE: A debate pertaining to pricing and sugarcane purchases in the province was postponed at the Punjab Assembly on Friday after the Opposition benches pointed out a lack of quorum. The debate was postponed last Friday after the Treasury pointed out a lack of quorum.
When the debate began, no one from the Opposition benches was present in the house. Sardar Shahabud Din Khan and Ehsan Riaz Fatyana appeared in the House after a few minutes and tried to take part.
Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal initiated the debate and Food Minister Bilal Yasin said the issue had been sorted out. He said the government had set the minimum price at Rs180 for 40kg of sugarcane in the first week of December. He said the difference and fluctuation between the prices of sugarcane set in Sindh and the Punjab had affected the trade in the Punjab and led to much hullabaloo. Once the issue reached the media, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif took notice of it and announced that Rs180 for 40kg would remain the minimum purchase price for the Punjab, Yasin said. Two sugar mills out of 42 in the province had refused to buy sugarcane at the rate. They were taken to court for this, he said.
Three other MPAs from the Treasury spoke on the issue. They recommended reducing the sales tax on agriculture tools and gadgets, and amending Sugar Factories Control Act 1950.
However, less than 50 lawmakers had showed up for Friday’s session – 23 of those present were women. Sheikh Alauddin said even though the speaker had earlier announced that the debate on sugar cane pricing was scheduled for Friday, the House appeared uninterested in the debate. He said the number of lawmakers who had shown up for Friday’s session was disappointing. “If it were not for women members, it would appear as if none of us is even interested in the issue.”
Shahabud Din pointed out the quorum with less than 60 lawmakers present.
The speaker said he was disappointed in the Opposition for pointing out the quorum even though he had invited the Opposition members to participate in the debate.
The speaker ordered a break to allow members to return to the House, but the House lacked quorum even after the break. He then postponed the session till Monday afternoon.
‘You’re eating bad food’
Earlier, the question hour covered Finance and Information and Culture Departments.
Food Minister Bilal Yasin said there were several hotels and eateries in upscale localities of the city, even those on MM Alam Road, were serving unhygienic and substandard food to consumers.
Punjab Food Authority was conducting raids and surprise inspections at various eateries across the city but they needed some time before matters could be set right, he said.
Yasin said the PFA had confiscated adulterated spices, ghee, milk, soft drinks and substandard meat in these raids. “The authority has shed light on the extent of deception in the so-called hospitality industry.”
Yasin said the authority was trying to regulate the meat sales in the city. He said the government had established a slaughterhouse at the cost of Rs1.6 billion. “PFA has been facing a lot of political pressure not to conduct raids or take action against those violating the law… We are resisting that,” he said.
Sheikh Alauddin spoke on the alleged use of expired meat by some multinational food companies, a matter over which he had moved an adjournment motion previously.
Yasin said the authority had taken strict action and had sealed the outlets of several multinational eateries and companies found violating the law. “All is certainly not well, but we are trying to set it right.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2014.