NAROWAL: Officers and employees of the food department went on a strike over the allegedly insulting and abusive language of the assistant commissioner (AC), who got three of the officers imprisoned for reportedly disobeying her orders.
The officers were protesting outside the main wheat procurement centre in the city and shouted slogans against the AC.
Three days ago, the food officers and AC Syeda Tehniyat Bukhari raided the warehouse of Narowal Flour and Rice Mills on Lahore Road and recovered 22,050 kilogrammes of wheat.
The AC asked the food department officers to register a case against the mill owner for hoarding. Over non-compliance of the orders, the AC summoned Assistant Food Controller Aish Bahadur Khan, Food Inspector Malik Muhammad Shafiq and Assistant Food Inspector Rana Sarfraz to Nadoke police station and locked them up.
The Nadoke police registered a first information report (FIR) against mill owners Abdul Rauf, Muhammad Farooq, Muhammad Javed and manager Zubair Khan after forcibly having Aish Bahadur sing the application.
Three dept officers have been arrested for not booking mill owner for ‘hoarding’
Bahadur said that on the orders of District Food Controller Akhtar Javed and Gujranwala Food Deputy Director Saifullah Joya, no case of hoarding should be registered against mill owners. Shafiq said they were bound to obey their officers’ orders. “Our officers have barred us from registering such cases,” he claimed.
Sarfraz said the AC insulted the officers at the police station, adding that she locked them up and took their pictures. “I have only four months of service left,” he said. “I have served honestly. The AC is as old as my daughters. Her inappropriate attitude and humiliation makes us want to commit suicide.”
Resultantly, the food department has stopped supply of flour to the Ramazan Bazaars across the district. Wheat procurement centres across the district have been closed and the procurement from farmers has also stopped. Department officials have also stopped the distribution of gunny bags to farmers in the district.
District Food Controller Javed said AC Bukhari’s attitude was intolerable and should be condemned. He said the employees’ strike could be expanded to other parts of Punjab if notice was not taken against the AC. He said the food department officials will not work with Ms Bukhari.
Deputy Director Joya said the officers were barred from registering cases against mill owners. If an FIR of hoarding had been registered against the mill owners immediately, the 22,000kg of wheat would have become part of litigation. “Our target is to buy wheat,” he said. “We wanted to take the 22,000kg bags of wheat into custody and then take legal action.”
As a strategy, registration of FIRs had been temporarily stopped, he added.
Deputy Commissioner Zaheer Hassan said it was necessary to register an FIR against the rice mill owners.
The district government was providing flour to Ramadan Bazaars. He added that there was no need to inquire into the incident.
The activities of the food department throughout the procurement drive would now be looked after by the additional deputy commissioner instead of the assistant commissioner, he claimed.
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2021