Centre says Punjab govt behind subsidy plan failure

Updated 12 Aug 2020

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Sultan said the Punjab government did not deposit the required amount in the bank account due to which farmers could not get benefit of the subsidy worth billions of rupees. — Dawn/File
Sultan said the Punjab government did not deposit the required amount in the bank account due to which farmers could not get benefit of the subsidy worth billions of rupees. — Dawn/File

ISLAMABAD: Parlia­mentary secretary for national food security and research Ameer Sultan on Tuesday claimed that there was no fault in the fertiliser subsidy scheme, but held the Punjab government of his own Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) responsible for its failure.

Mr Sultan said the Punjab government did not deposit the required amount in the bank account due to which farmers could not get benefit of the subsidy worth billions of rupees.

In response to a calling attention notice moved by five PTI members from Punjab “regarding not reaching of subsidy on fertiliser and seed to the farmers”, the parliamentary secretary informed the National Assembly that there was “no technical fault in the token scheme. It failed because the Punjab government had not deposited the required amount in the account, which caused the error”.

He was responding to the criticism by his party colleagues who complained that farmers could not get any benefit of the huge subsidy that the government had announced for them by asking them to get the subsidised amount from banks by showing the tokens or scratch cards they got with the purchased bags of DAP fertiliser.

The secretary said the federal government had allocated Rs37 billion for the subsidy on fertilisers for the farmers and it would itself monitor and keep a check on its distribution despite the fact that the agriculture was a devolved subject under the 18th Amendment. Under the new scheme, he said, the farmers would get Rs925 subsidy per DAP fertiliser bag.

However, he said the federal government would submit the whole amount in the bank accounts and expressed the hope that the farmers would not face any difficulty in future.

Mr Sultan also disclosed that the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet had rejected the proposed schemes that had been submitted by Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan as all the three provinces had proposed their own separate procedure for the distribution of the subsidy. He said the ECC wanted to have a uniform system for the distribution of the subsidy amount. He made it clear that the Sindh government had not submitted any proposal in this regard.

No subsidy for Kharif crops

The parliamentary secretary also disclosed that the provinces had informed the government that they would not be able to offer the subsidy on fertilisers for the upcoming Kharif crops and it would only be available for Rabi crops.

Mr Sultan told the assembly that the government approached the fertiliser companies and the importers asking them to reduce the price at the time of purchase, but they had refused to do so, saying they had no trust in the provincial governments which had not yet paid Rs480 million outstanding against them for the past four to five years.

Earlier, moving the notice, Sardar Talib Nakai regretted that the subsidy announced by the government in the past had been wasted, as the farmers did not benefit. Only some farmers, he said, were lucky enough to get Rs300 to Rs800 through tokens they got with the bags as lotteries.

Meanwhile, speaking on a point of order, parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Khawaja Asif condemned the alleged brutal police action against the opposition party workers in Lahore at the time of the appearance of PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Mr Asif questioned the deployment of heavy contingents of policemen outside National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Lahore office, saying that such a large number of policemen were not deployed even outside the Supreme Court or other courts. The PML-N leader criticised the Punjab government for mishandling the situation and said if such actions were not stopped, then the PTI government would be fully responsible for spoiling country’s political atmosphere.

Responding to his speech, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said there was a need to hold an inquiry into the incident to know as to why it had happened. The minister said that the police and the government knew that such a situation could not be in their benefit and they also tried to avoid it. However, he said, anyone could do a “foolish act” and there was a need to take steps and devise a mechanism to avoid such incidents in future.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2020