PESHAWAR: Nanbais observed a shutter down strike in different parts of the province, including Peshawar, on Monday against an increase in the price of wheat flour and announced that they would continue the strike until the government increased the price of roti in line with the flour’s market rate.
While four nanbais were arrested in Hayatabad area.
The administration of Peshawar continued provision of the flour from local mills through trucks in different parts of Peshawar where the people queued up in large numbers to purchase the 20kg flour bag for Rs808.
In a statement, food minister Qalandar Lodhi claimed that there was no flour crisis or shortage in the province.
He said Chief Minister Mahmood Khan was ‘personally supervising the situation to facilitate consumers’.
Minister denies flour crisis, says checking of hoarding, profiteering ordered
The minister said the food department had a stock of over 0.4 million tons wheat, while the government increased the daily quota of flour mills up to 5,000 tons to control the increasing flour price.
He said flour supply from Punjab had been restored, while the district administrations had strictly been directed to check hoarding and profiteering across the province.
Mr Lodhi said the government had offered nanbais the provision of flour at subsidised rate but even then, the latter went on strike, so the protest was unjustified.
He said the government couldn’t overburden the residents to benefit few people by increasing roti price.
The minister claimed that the government had started begun the supply of flour from local mills at the controlled rate to the people’s doorstep in all districts through trucks and mobile vans and that the people were happy with the initiative.
Meanwhile, deputy commissioner of Peshawar Mohammad Ali Asghar visited parts of the provincial capital and warned that strict action would be taken if anyone was found to be forcing nanbais to pull down shutters. A spokesman for the district administration claimed that 40 per cent of the nanbai shops in the provincial capital were open, while security was promised to them for smooth business.
He said nanbais had been arrested for forcing others to go on strike and that the administration would continue to detain violators of the law.
Presidents of both factions of the Nanbai Associations, Peshawar, Haji Mohammad Iqbal and Khaista Gul, claimed that the strike was successful and that it would continue for an indefinite period if the government didn’t meet their demands.
They said the supply of flour from Punjab would not resolve the issue as the traders were forced to pay illegal tax up to Rs20,000 per truck at Punjab checkpoints that caused an unprecedented increase in flour price.
The nanbai association leaders said power and gas tariffs were frequently increased, while the nanbais were not allowed to use LPG cylinders, so how they could continue with the business. They complained that a 85kg flour sack was sold for Rs5,200 in Peshawar.
“Four of our office-bearers, including Taza Gul, Waheed Khan, Naeem and Sharif, were arrested in Hayatabad, while raids were conducted for the arrest of others,” Mr Gul said adding that the nanbais had done nothing wrong and just demanded either a control on flour price or higher roti price. The nanbais observed a strike in Mansehra city and its outskirts demanding flour supply at subsidised rate.
Nanbai Association, Hazara, president Sardar Zaheer said the wheat flour’s price had surged so much that nanbais couldn’t continue with business.
“We don’t want to overburden the people, so wheat flour should be supplied to us on subsidy and if that is not possible, the roti price should be increased,” he said.
Meanwhile, nanbais of Khyber tribal district distanced themselves from the strike call given by the provincial nanbai association against higher flour price.
The 180 grammes roti was sold for Rs15 and 240 grammes’ for Rs20 in all three major business centres of the district in line with the official rate.
The district administration arranged sufficient flour stocks in Bara, Jamrud and Landi Kotal subdivisions.
Meanwhile, the Kohat Nanbais Association has warned that if the flour shortage doesn’t end in few days, the nanbais will begin a civil disobedience movement.
Also, the Lakki Marwat district administration asked the food department to cancel permits of seven flour dealers and conduct audit of the records of a local flour mill after a probe unearthed the sale of government-subsidised flour at higher rates on the open market. The Naurang town flour mill became operational last Nov after receiving wheat under the government quota for the provision of flour to residents at subsidised rates through dealers.
Meanwhile, Karak assistant commissioner Abdus Samad Nizamani has said the administration will take action against flour hoarders in the district.
He told reporters during a surprise visit to Karak Bazaar that the administration wouldn’t let anyone create artificial shortage of flour in the district.
Also, the residents of Bajaur tribal district on Monday complained about the shortage of flour at sale points established by the local administration. Scores of people demonstrated outside the Bajaur Flour Mills for not providing flour to them.
Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2020