Lahore High Court seeks answers for flour crisis

Updated January 23, 2020

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The lawyer contended that details of exact production and estimated target for the entire country and all provinces needed to be brought on record along with reasons for allowing export when there was a shortage in the country as well as a list of the mill owners exporting wheat. — Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
The lawyer contended that details of exact production and estimated target for the entire country and all provinces needed to be brought on record along with reasons for allowing export when there was a shortage in the country as well as a list of the mill owners exporting wheat. — Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

LAHORE: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh on Wednesday issued notices to the federal and Punjab governments on a petition questioning their failure to control wheat and flour crisis in the country.

Representing the petitioner, Advocate Azhar Siddique argued that the government failed to set a target for procuring an estimated amount of wheat and there was also mismanagement by the price control “mafia” working discreetly. He alleged that the “mafia” persuaded the government to allow export of wheat with heavy rebate that led to the crisis.

He further said that the purpose was to make money and the government had badly failed to control exploitation as protected under Article 3 of the Constitution. He said the citizens were now forced to face the consequences because their source of income was on the lower side.

The lawyer contended that details of exact production and estimated target for the entire country and all provinces needed to be brought on record along with reasons for allowing export when there was a shortage in the country as well as a list of the mill owners exporting wheat.

Chakki owners on strike to protest raids

Chief Justice Sheikh observed that the court wanted to know the reasons behind the crisis and the failure of the government to control it. He issued notices to the respondents and also summoned the Punjab additional chief secretary and foods secretary on Jan 24 (tomorrow).

STRIKE: Amid grinding mills owners’ strike in the city against the arrest of their colleagues in late Tuesday raids, the city administration on Wednesday started selling flour at official prices at various wheat grinding units in Lahore.

“There is no shortage of wheat in the city as only a group of grind millers’ association and karyana association have resorted to illegal profiteering,” Deputy Commissioner (DC) Danish Afzal told Dawn.

“We will not tolerate this since they (association officials) committed selling flour at Rs45 per kg if they were provided wheat at Rs1,375 (per 40kg). We started providing them wheat at the promised rate but they demanded ending restriction on the provision of five wheat bags (each of 100 kg) to each mill. So, we will not allow them to blackmail us and loot the public at large by charging Rs70 for per kg.”

Late on Tuesday, the police, led by assistant commissioners in Lahore, raided several places and got some chakki owners and shopkeepers arrested for selling flour on high price.

Reacting to the action, a number of chakki owners in the city observed strike in the city. Consequently, several grinding mills remained shut on Wednesday. “If they have enough wheat, why are they providing us only five bags while our demand is much higher than five bags,” association general secretary Abdul Rehman told Dawn. He said owners of mills on Flemming Road, Gawalmandi and other parts kept their businesses closed in protest. “We will continue strike in the coming days if the government continues targeting us,” he warned.

The DC, however, dispelled the impression, stating there was no restriction on wheat bags supply to the mills.

“We had actually told them to first finish grinding of 500Kg wheat (five bags) and sell the flour in one day and then get more from us if needed but they don’t agree,” he clarified.

He said those failing to fulfill their commitment would be punished accordingly.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2020