Flour crisis persists


Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Karachi Satuarday, August 2—–August 2008

By A Correspondent
GILGIT: Tall claims of the local administration and the food department notwithstanding, wheat flour has altogether vanished from the markets of Gilgit-Baltistan.“It is strange that in spite of nominal wheat quota flour was available in the markets in the past but at present despite allocation of a huge quantity of 120,000 metric tons there is a crisis of atta in the region,” President Flour Mills Association Shaukat Akbar said at a press conference here.He made special mention of Rs600 million subsidies from the federal government in wheat procurement to extend relief to the residents of these remote and far-flung areas. He said the total quantity of wheat did not reach the region and disappeared somewhere on the way. The flour mill owners, who ended a two-day strike recently, pointed out a variation in prices of flour at various districts and held the food department responsible for the crisis.“The mill owners are responsible for the scarcity of flour in the markets,” Muniruddin, Director Food, who is facing an inquiry in embezzlement as well as malpractices cases and has been appointed on contractual basis after retirement, told a press conference in Skardu. However, Senior Superintendent of Police District Diamer Ali Sher said that atta was being smuggled to other parts of the country under the patronage of the food department officials.“Police caught red-handed some mill owners who were smuggling flour to NWFP and registered cases against them. We wrote to the director food to blacklist the accused and cancel their licences and take legal action against them but nothing was done against them, and why would they do because they are facilitating the mafia and enjoying full share in the profit earned through smuggling,” Sher alleged.He said the area was not supplied with its full quota and in collaboration with the food department the mafia was misappropriating about 40 per cent of the total quota during its supply to the region. It is learnt that mill owners use bags with trade mark of the mills of Punjab and NWFP and sell the subsidised commodity at high rates in other parts of country. But the officials of the food department turn a blind eye to the issue.When contacted, senior officials of Northern Areas administration however said there was no shortage of flour.

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