Govt to take strict action against those involved in wheat-sugar crisis: Firdous Ashiq Awan

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ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to take strict action against those involved in artificial crisis of wheat and sugar after release of inquiry commission’s final report on April 25.

Briefing media about cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said that after inquiry report, specific questions arose about effectiveness of the sugar policy. She said that the cabinet decided to take corrective measures to save the people from any such artificial crisis in future.

She said that it was decided to introduce reforms in Competition Commission of Pakistan to make it an effective origination to control cartelization. Besides, modern technology wikll be introduced in collection and maintenance of sugar industry data so that nobody can hoodwink the system in future, she said, adding that the prime minister has warned that strict action will be taken against those found involved in hurling threats to the commission.

Dr Firdous said Special Assistant to PM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar presented the inquiry report on flour and sugar crisis before the cabinet at the outset of the meeting on the directives of the prime minister. She said Shahzad Akbar informed the cabinet that the relevant ministry has presented the report in the ECC meeting that there is about 2 million tons surplus sugar available in the country. She said that after bumper crop of the sugarcane, the mill owners pleaded that they are unable to purchase the same due to already available stock. In this situation, the PM was briefed that for saving the interest of the farmers, it was necessary to hold consultations with mill owners and take export-oriented initiatives. She said that the PM issued directives for resolution of the farmers’ problems, however the federal government did not give any subsidy on the export of sugar.

She said the cabinet was informed that in 2017, Salman Shahbaz, the son of former chief minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif, approached the then prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to give Rs 20 billion subsidy for sugar export. Similarly, during 2014-18, Sindh government gave Rs 20 subsidy per kilogram on sugar to benefit the Omni Group.

She said Prime Minister Imran Khan has assured the federal cabinet that all necessary initiatives will be taken to protect the interests of farmers and ensure supply of edibles items to general public at affordable prices. She said the present government for the first time since 2014 increased the price of sugarcane to protect the interests of the growers. She said the prime minister has directed to resolve the issues being faced by growers and farmers on immediate basis. She said the government machinery is fully active to ensure the availability of quality edibles at affordable prices and no negligence will be tolerated in this regard.

Giving details of the cabinet agenda, she said it gave approval to the decisions of cabinet committee on energy besides approving inclusion of 62 more districts in universal service fund to improve broadband service there. She said that the cabinet approved proposals regarding revamping, reconstructing and reorganizing Evacuee Trust Property Board and gave approval to utilization of Evacuee Trust Property Board land for welfare purposes, including health, education and housing sectors.

DrFirdous said that Special Assistant on Social Protection DrSaniaNishtar gave detailed briefing to the cabinet on Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme. She said that the cabinet was informed that the federal government is providing cash assistance worth Rs 12,000 to over 12 million deserving families under Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme following coronavirus outbreak in the country. The deserving families, she said, will get this cash assistance after biometric verification through over 18,065 sale points or retail shops across the country.

She said that Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza briefed about the current the situation of ongoing coronavirus and the relief steps being taken. She said the prime minister expressed his annoyance over the treatment meted out to doctors in Balochistan and said that doctors and paramedical staff are the frontline soldiers in war against corona and it is responsibility of the relevant governments to provide them with protective gears so that they can focus on their work.

The cabinet was informed that so far over 39,000 protective kits have been handed over to the provinces but these have not reached the hospitals in enough numbers. The cabinet decided that from now onward, these kits will be directly sent to the medical superintendents of the hospitals through courier service to speed up the delivery process.

She said SAPM on Youth Affairs Usman Dar was specially invited in the meeting who briefed it about the registration of volunteers for Tiger Volunteer Force. He said that so far 7,17,199 persons have registered themselves for the force which will work at district, tehsil and union council levels to support the district administration in rescue, relief and rehabilitation activities, she added.

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