LAHORE: The Punjab government has imposed strict conditions on wheat flour supply under Ramazan package 2018 to check misappropriation.
To ensure grinding of highly subsidised wheat, the Food Department had asked flourmill owners to submit fresh power meter reading along with copies of three months’ paid electricity bills by Saturday (May 12, 2018).
The comparison of electricity bills would help avoid misappropriation by checking units consumed with the grinding of wheat by the respective flour mills. However, sources said that in addition to strict checking of the electricity usage, the wheat purchase and flour selling log should also be reviewed to cross check utilisation of subsidised wheat under the Ramazan package.
The provincial government was also updating the list of functional flour mills, so it could allocate subsidised wheat quota for grinding. In this connection, the respective District Food Controllers (DFCs) have been instructed to provide certificate of functional roller bodies to avoid any complication at the later stage.
In contrast to a proposal to raise Ramazan package to 0.8 million tons, the provincial government decided to contain the volume of wheat to 0.5 million tons. The Food Department will spend Rs11 billion on provision of subsidy in this regard.
The provincial government took the step following raising of alarm bells that a big part of the subsidised wheat flour was unlikely to reach consumers in Punjab during Ramazan, because of alleged misappropriations at the hands of food officials and flourmill owners.
The Ramazan package would be implemented from May 14 with supply of subsidised wheat to special bazaars and open market. Only subsidised wheat flour would be allowed for sale under the package.
Owing to lack of transparency and absence of monitoring mechanism to check the grinding of wheat by flour mills and its subsequent supply under the Ramazan package, this initiative might not make a real difference for consumers as long as verification of data and cross check was not made, said sources.
The whole process should also be made transparent by sharing data of the released amount and quantity of flour through the concerned department’s website.
For years, there have been complaints about subsidised wheat being issued even to closed flourmill owners, who sell it in the open market, and pocket big money with the connivance of food department staff.
Some circles blamed that one-third or almost half of the subsidy was embezzled every year by officials, including deputy directors of food department, district food controllers, and flourmill owners.
As per Ramazan package 2018, a 20 kilogram bag of flour would be available in Ramadan bazaars and in the open market at the price of Rs500 while the 10kg flour bag would be provided at Rs250.
In addition, to supply in the open market, more than 300 subsidised Ramadan Bazaars would be established during the month of fasting to provide relief to the people. Meanwhile, 32 model bazaars would also operate as subsidised Ramadan Bazaars.