Centre under fire for ‘biased’ attitude towards Sindh over locust attack

Updated November 23, 2019

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Sindh Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahu the federal government was not assisting the provincial administration. — Dawn/File
Sindh Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahu the federal government was not assisting the provincial administration. — Dawn/File

KARACHI: Lambasting the federal government for its “biased” attitude towards Sindh, Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahu informed the Sindh Assembly on Friday that the Centre was not cooperating with the provincial government to tackle the locust issue.

He said although the plant protection department under the ministry of national food security and research was the competent authority to tackle the locust issue, still the federal government was not assisting the provincial administration.

“The plant protection department has 20 planes for aerial spray to control locust, but only three of them are functional,” he said, adding that two planes were on stand-by in Punjab where locust had not yet arrived.

The minister said that only one plane was sent to Sindh by the federal government and that too after repeated requests. He said this indicated the Centre’s “dual standards” for Sindh and Punjab.

At the beginning of the session with a very thin attendance of lawmakers, Mr Rahu rose to seek permission from Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani to make a policy statement on what he called a “very serious issue”.

PA unanimously passes a law to register and regulate charity organisations in the province

“Why is Sindh being treated like this? Is it not part of the country?” he asked and said that Sindh and Bengal were the two provinces that took initiative for the creation of Pakistan.

“You have separated Bengal and now are treating Sindh like this,” he said without specifically mentioning anyone.

Mr Rahu said that he had written several letters to the federal government since May, but it remained lethargic.

He said that the federal government sent only one plane on June 19 for aerial spraying in the province.

He said the plane sprayed only 6,000 acres in Naro in Thar and Salehpat in Sukkur, while there was millions of acres’ area yet to be sprayed. “The federal government should send all three functional planes to Sindh so that most of the desert area could be covered.”

Locust affects 12 Sindh districts

Giving details of measures taken by the provincial government, he said that 15 centres were established in different districts with a central control room in Hyderabad.

He said that agriculturists were also provided with local pesticides and added that the medicine required to control the locust could only be imported by the federal government.

Mr Rahu said that 12 districts of the province including Shaheed Benazirabad, Ghotki, Mirpurkhas and Umerkot were affected by locust.

Later, on a calling-attention notice by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Dr Imran Ali Shah, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla assured him that efforts would be taken to provide facilities to the government schools in his constituency sooner rather than later.

Dr Shah said that several schools in his constituency were deprived of basic facilities. “Girls’ schools lack toilets. The students were compelled to sit on the floor. We have given them darees [mats] to sit but the same have now been damaged,” he said, asking the minister concerned to visit his constituency.

Charities bill

The house also unanimously passed the Sindh Charities Registration and Regulation Bill, 2019. The lawmakers were informed by the parliamentary minister that a commission — Charities Registration and Regulation Commission — would be formed following enactment of the law.

The commission would be mandated to ensure that charities and promoters comply with their legal obligations in exercising control and management of the administration of charitable funds.

The commission would also institute a mechanism including central database for effective monitoring and evaluation.

Question Hour

Earlier, while furnishing statements and replies to lawmakers’ written and verbal queries during Question Hour, Energy Minister Imtiaz Shaikh said that as many as 36 sugar mills were producing bagasse-based electricity. (Bagasse is the dry pulpy residue left after the extraction of juice from sugar cane.)

To a question by Grand Democratic Alliance’s Arif Mustafa Jatoi, the minister said that a 100MW gas turbine power plant was providing electricity through the Sindh Transmission and Dispatch Company (STDC) via a 132 kV double circuit transmission line.

He said that the STDC transmitted power from Sindh Nooriabad Power Company.

The minister said that the project, a joint venture of the provincial government with a private company, transmitted electricity to a K-Electric grid station.

He said that the company had earned revenue of Rs595.718 million from wheeling charges.

In reply to a question by treasury member Heer Soho, the minister said that as many as 89 villages in Karachi had been electrified during the period between 2015 and 2018 by the energy department.

To a verbal question, he said that the Rs695m Village Electrification Programme was financed by the provincial government. “Only one village in district Malir is yet to be electrified, while 89 villages have been energised,” he added.

The chair adjourned the sitting till Wednesday.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2019