LARKANA: Rice millers, who had come to Shahdadkot’s grain market (Anaj Mandi), on Monday stopped procurement of paddy from growers over what they termed “intervention by district administration in the trading”. Their withdrawal from the market caused panic and anguish among paddy growers, who blocked the nearby roads by parking their crop-laden vehicles in the middle of the thoroughfares in protest against millers’ reaction.

The trading came to a halt when Shahdadkot sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Sajjad Haidar Qadri and DSP Yar Mohammed Rind along with a police team arrived in the market and tried to enforce an agreement reached between millers and paddy growers a few years back. Under the agreement, millers had undertaken to do away with the practice of deducting certain quantity from the actual weight of the paddy stocks they would buy.

The agreement was inked during the tenure of Qambar-Shahdadkot Deputy Commissioner Anwarul Haq.

Millers piqued by official monitoring to check unlawful cuts in weightage

Millers were supposed to stop such cuts in the weight because it was an illegal practice, Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) general secretary Abdul Khalique Khoso said while talking to Dawn on Monday.

Incumbent Deputy Commissioner Jawed Ahmed Jagirani retained the agreement after two rounds of negotiations between the stakeholders, he said.

Abdul Wahab Pandrani, president of the district’s Shehri Ittehad, endorsed growers’ stand on the issue. He noted with concern that when the SDM and DSP asked the millers, present in the market, to desist from applying illegal cuts, they stopped buying the crop. He pointed out that the crop was transported from across the district and parts of the adjoining Balochistan province to the market. He said that millers, reacting to the district administration’s involvement in the trade, shut down their mills. The road blockage by paddy growers caused severe disruption in the flow of vehicular traffic in the market area. Traffic jam was witnessed on all roads leading to Shahdadkot town.

Balochistan Abadgars Action Committee also joined in the protest, said Mr Pandrani.

The SDM and DSP tried to dissuade millers from going for a closure of their mills but in vain.

Talking to Dawn, DSP Yar Mohammed Rind said that growers had resorted to blocking roads to register their protest against millers’ act of violating the agreement. He said the protesters cleared the roads in the evening.

SAB leader Khoso said that millers were applying a Rs26 cut on every 40 kilograms of paddy and a 120kg cut on a trolley-load of the commodity weighing about 4,000kg. “This is sheer injustice,” he said.

The stand-off brought the routine bidding and trading process for paddy in the market to a halt.

Mr Khoso said that paddy crop from Gandakha (Balochistan) and its adjoining areas along with the crop of Qambar-Shahdadkot district used to be brought in the market regularly.

There are around 98 rice mills in Qambar-Shahdadkot district, sources said.

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2019