Farmers staged several protests in Faisalabad division on Tuesday against the Food Department for failing to provide them gunny bags for wheat.
The protesters claimed that they were not being issued adequate number of gunny bags from centres set-up by the government for wheat procurement.
In Jhang, dozens of farmers staged a protest at the Ahmadpur Sial wheat procurement centre.
Allah Ditta Sial, one of the protesters, said that there were no proper arrangements at the centre. “We arrived at the centre early in the morning. The Food Department officers told us to queue up in the open. It was a hot day. We were waiting for our turn, when we saw a pickup arrive at the centre. Three men got out of the vehicle and went inside. They were issued a large number of gunny bags within 10 minutes. They loaded the bags in the pick up and departed,” he said.
“We then staged a protest against the staff,” he said.
Aman Ullah Khan, another protester, said that a police guard, deployed at the centre, fired shots in the air to scare them.
In Shorkot city, a similar protest was staged after two waiting farmers, Ghulam Abbas and Khizar Hayat, fainted while standing in the sun. The protesters chanted slogans against the centre staff.
Shorkot Assistant Commissioner Aamir Shehzad, District Food Controller Amanullah and Assistant Food Controller Malik Waris Sabir talked to the protesters. They assured them that the gunny bags would be issued in a transparent manner.
At Pir Mehal, scores of farmers staged a demonstration in front of the District Food Department and chanted slogans against the officials for not issuing them gunny bags.
Mehar Shah Zaib Sargana, the Kissan Bachao Movement chairman, said that the Food Department had failed to provide gunny bags to farmers as the government had promised. “Without gunny bags, the farmers are unable to bring their harvest to the procurement centres. They are forced to sell their wheat to middle men at Rs1,000 to Rs1,100 per 40 kilogrammes, who have the gunny bags,” he said.
Requesting anonymity, a Food Department Faisalabad official said that they were unable to provide the sacks because they did not have enough. “We are facing an acute shortage of gunny bags. We have set up 37 wheat procurement centres in Faisalabad division. The department has started providing the bags to the farmers. We have set the target of buying 1.49 million sacks of wheat from the division. Currently, we face a shortage of 186,000 gunny bags in Faisalabad, Toba Tek Singh, Jhang and Chiniot districts,” he said. “The department had planned to complete the process of issuing gunny bags to the growers within 40 days,” he said.
Faisalabad division Food Department spokesman Muhammad Jamil said that the gunny bags were being purchased. “The gunny bags are being provided to the growers. There is a no shortage of bags,” he said.
Faisalabad Assistant Food Controller Shahbaz Lateef said that the government had not yet directed the department to start purchasing wheat.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2015.
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