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LAHORE: A Pakistan Kissan Board’s office-bearer alleges Food Department officials distributed gunny bags to wheat growers on the basis of favouritism, a charge instantly refuted by the officials.

“Favouritism and injustice in the distribution of gunny bags in Bahawalpur division are common complaints, as the genuine growers, who in the official record are also registered as wheat growers, have been denied of bardana,” Pakistan Kissan Board senior vice-president Jaam Hazoor Bakhsh told Dawn. He said it seemed that the department was only helping the influential people.

Other than distributing bags on favouritism, he said, several farmers who had been issued bags last year, could not make to this year’s lists. “What is the solution to this problem, as both food officials and patwaris are not ready to address the complainants?” he said.

Mr Bakhsh said he had suggested that the government issue bags to those growers who pay abiana (irrigation tax). The government, however, chose to ignore the suggestion and also did not take any measures to reform the bags distribution.

Those lucky with bags are facing hosts of issues at wheat procurement centres.

Umair Khan, of Rahim Yar Khan, said they were also facing problems related to the assessment of the wheat at centres. He said officials mentioned less weight of the crop citing quality standards. “If a farmer brings 200 maund wheat, officials consider it 195 maunds and cut out five maunds for ‘high moisture contents’,” he said He demanded that the government immediately order an audit to check the ruthless deduction of wheat on the basis of quality.

Rahim Yar Khan District Food Controller Mian Mehboob Akhtar dispelled the allegations, saying that everything was being done in accordance with the policy.

“We’ve achieved 71 percent of our target and till May 21, we’ll achieve the remaining one,” he said, adding that due to a stay order issued by the Lahore High Court, the buying work remained suspended from May 13 to 15.

Later, the department accelerated the distribution and procurement. He said anyone with complaining should immediately contact his office so that the genuine problems could be resolved.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2017