HYDERABAD: A division bench of the Sindh High Court Hyderabad circuit has directed the Sindh chief secretary and finance secretary to submit their comments and also ensure release of adequate funds for the Sindh Seed Corporation (SSC) in order to settle liability of the corporation without delay.

The bench comprising Justice Nadeem Akhtar and Justice Arshad Hussain Khan directed that a compliance report be filed by March 18.

The order was passed on a constitutional petition filed by Ali Gul Junejo and 24 other employees of the SSC citing the Sindh chief secretary, agriculture secretary, local government secretary, and SSC’s managing director and director administration and finance.

The SSC director administration/finance submitted a statement in compliance with the court’s Jan 20 order.

It said Rs158.612m was payable by the SSC to its employees, including petitioner employees, towards salaries outstanding since Sept 2020, post-retirement benefits and other liabilities. The director said the SSC failed to settle the liabilities as the government had not provided funds.

Employees owed Rs158.612m under the head of salaries, dues

The court directed the petitioners to include the finance secretary as respondent through an amended title within three days.

The petitioners said the SSC was established in 1976 under the International Development Assistance (IDA) credit to provide genetically pure and certified seeds to farmers.

They said two seed corporations — one each in Sindh and Punjab — were established to multiply, produce, procure, process and market certified seeds of wheat, cotton, rice and oilseeds. They said the SSC plant in Sakrand was installed to process seeds whereas about 6,000 acres of land was provided for seed multiplication and grant-in-aid was provided by the Sindh government for salaries.

A seed operation was carried out through borrowed money from commercial banks against bank guarantees, but the SSC could not run effectively after completion of its development phase and due to financial and other administrative constraints, they said.

On the other hand the Punjab Seed Corporation was running satisfactorily and providing seeds to other provinces as well, they said.

They said that after completion of the project, funds for salaries could not be generated and petitioners were suffering due to non-payment of salaries which were stopped by the respondent MD and secretary agriculture without justification and with mala fide intention.

They said the respondents had stopped operational activities due to limited strength of technical staff and funds for purchase of seed.

The respondent MD was requested to release Rs69.055m for payment of salaries to regular employees and wages of 62 contingency employees besides funds for pension benefits. They said the secretary agriculture floated a summary for Rs69.055m and the Sindh CM approved the proposal on Nov 7, 2017, and salaries were accordingly disbursed till Dec 2017.

They said the finance department also passed a remark on the summary that “administrative department should assess viability of the SSC in the light of its performance and if the SSC is unable to sustain itself, financial option of closing of the SSC may be evaluated. Function of the SSC may be transferred to any of relevant wing of the directorate of the agriculture department”.

The petitioners said the administrative department did not follow the matter as proposed by the finance department except for issuance of a single letter by the SSC MD.

They said that no sound proposal was formulated. Salaries of petitioners from Jan 2018 onwards were disbursed out of SSC’s farm income, they said, adding that the agriculture secretary could not pay salaries from May 2020 onwards.

They said that after the SSC revival, the Sindh government provided sufficient fund for seed operations and payment of salaries to permanent employees/petitioners, but the respondent MD and secretary utilized them in other heads. Salaries of over 33 employees were stopped since May 2020, they added.

They asked the court to direct the respondents for allocation/release of funds for petitioners’ salaries from May 2020 onwards along with liabilities of the retired employees.

They said their services might be protected or they might be merged in another organization or offered golden handshake.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2021

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