ISLAMABAD - Dissatisfied with the routine reports presented by the chief law officers of provinces in the last eight months, the Supreme Court Tuesday summoned the food secretaries of all the provinces to explain what concrete steps have been taken to ensure availability of food items at affordable prices.
Justice Jawwad S Khawaja who was heading a three-member bench that heard the suo moto case taken on the letter of Jamaat-e-Islami chief in October last observed that in the last eight months it received only impractical considerations by the provincial governments like constitution of committees etc, while on the ground still the people don’t get required nutrients i.e. 2,350 calories per person per day. Therefore the court had summoned the food secretaries of all the provinces on July 7.
The secretaries have to give undertaking in this regard and should know if the undertaking is violated then what the consequences would follow. “The secretaries shall also inform what practical steps have been taken since October 2013 to meet the food requirement to the citizens in their respective provinces,” the court’s short order said.
The additional advocate generals of the provinces and the secretary National Food Security submitted reports regarding measures taken by their respective governments to provide subsidy on the food items.
The court observed that lump sum subsidy is being provided on flour and other food commodities even to those people who don’t need it. The court since last year October has passed many orders so that the mechanism is developed for the targeted subsidy for the poor, who require it, but so far neither the provincial governments nor the federal government had taken any concrete steps in that regard.
During the proceeding, the additional advocate general Balochistan appeared before the court along with Director Food Balochistan Ayyaz Mandokhel. The director informed that no subsidy has been given to people in the province since 2009, adding however funds have been allocated in this budget for subsidy on food items during Ramazan. He also told that except for Quetta there was no fair price shop in Balochistan.
The AAG Khyber Pakhtunkhwa informed that the provincial government had envisioned programme for targeted subsidy, which would be channelised either through smart cards, ration cards or utility stores. He said KP government had allocated Rs 5 billion in addition to funds for normal subsidy for this purpose.
He said a committee has been formed which would finalise the modalities and collection of poor people data either through National Database Registration Authority (Nadra) or Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) database.
Punjab Additional Advocate General Razak A Mirza informed that the provincial government has considered a number of programmes to channelise the subsidy so that the poorest of the poor get food items at cheap prices.
Additional Food Secretary Punjab, who appeared with the AAG, told that however no scheme had been envisioned for the targeted subsidy.
Sindh AAG Kasim Mir Jat told that a bill has been presented in the provincial assembly regarding the target subsidy. The court observed that it appeared an exercise without more benefits to the poor, adding no concrete step have yet been taken for the availability of food items at affordable prices.
The secretary national food security informed that the federal government had earmarked Rs 118 for BISP. The bench said that it was not the subsidy on the food items. However, the secretary contended that 80 per cent of BISP money is used on food.
The court summoning the food secretaries adjourned the hearing till 7th July.