LAHORE: The Punjab cabinet on Wednesday decided to regularise the service of all the contract-based employees in the province and also ordered a survey of the areas hit by recent rains and hailstorm for assessing the losses to prepare a compensation package for the affected farmers.

Briefing the media after the cabinet meeting, provincial Information Minister Samsam Bhukhari told journalists that the eligibility criteria for regularisation of contract-based employees had been revised downwards from four to to three years.

He, however, did not disclose that how many employees would benefit from the regularisation decision.

Mr Bukhari further said a survey of the rain-hit areas of the province would be conducted to assess farmers losses as a first step towards preparing a compensation package for them.

“The cabinet has also approved takeover of certain seminaries (madressahs) to be permanently run by the government. These seminaries have been a vital part of our education system and would be mainstreamed,” he said.

When asked about the financial arrangements finalised for running these institutions, the minister explained it would vary from case to case. However, he said, the government was committed to run the seminaries as per their existing system.

The cabinet also approved the Growth Strategy-2023, which would rule the development process for the next four years. The last strategy had expired in June 2018.

According to the minister, the main focus of the cabinet meeting was upcoming month of Ramazan to provide relief to the masses. “For the purpose, the government would run Ramazan Baazars, where it would subsidise various items of daily use. The 10kg flour bag would be available at Rs290 (with a subsidy of Rs80), sugar would be sold at Rs55 per kilogram, ghee and edible oil would entail Rs15 and Rs20 subsidy, respectively and chicken meat Rs10 per kilogram subsidy.”

The minister said the number of price control magistrates would also be increased to effectively monitor and control any artificial price hike.

“The chief minister has ordered strict monitoring of both Ramazan and regular bazaars to ensure enforcement of official rates. The Punjab Information Technology Board has prepared a smart phone application for price control, which would be utilized to keep a lid on the prices. All the ministers, advisors and officials will be checking prices in order to ensure proper control. Some 309 fair price shops would also be established in these bazaars. During the last 10 days of the fasting month, the Ramazan bazaars would be turned into Eid baazars. In addition to this, the government would also run 2,000 free dasterkhwan (free food outlets) for the poor,” Mr Bukhari said.

The cabinet, which met for the second time in the last one week, also decided to grant 1.5 per cent of the basic pay to all engineers as technical allowance. All engineers from the departments registered with the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) would be entitled to the allowance, he said.

The cabinet also approved remission of 60 days in sentences of all prisoners, except those convicted for terrorism, anti-state activities or espionage.

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2019