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Thursday July 18, 2024

Redressing free flour scheme issues: Punjab to launch complaint centre

By Jawwad Rizvi
March 21, 2023

LAHORE: After getting complaints of ineligibility of getting registered in the free flour schemes by the huge number of people who qualify the maximum income slab of below Rs60,000 income per month, the caretaker Punjab government has decided to set up a complaint centre where such people will get enrolled in the scheme instantly.

An official of the Punjab government disclosed that the issue was also already highlighted with the chief minister and Cabinet members. After the due consultation, it has been decided to set up a complaint cell to redress such complaints. The complaint cell would be established within two days and those who are getting the message of ineligibility to get free flour by sending their CNIC details to short code of 8070 will be enrolled in the scheme.

The official attached with the scheme disclosed that during the brainstorming level the same issue was discussed as the criteria for the BISP cash transfers have different household PTM score while the same data will not work efficiently in case of free flour distribution in Punjab province. However, the scheme was launched with the plan that once the complaints emerged then the issues would be resolved. Furthermore, the Punjab government has also tasked to the Punjab Social Protection Authority to gather the indigenous data of the provincial population so that in future better accurate data of targeted population would be available in case the province need to launch any targeted subsidy scheme. The PSPA has given three to six months target for gathering this data, the official added.

Explaining the management of Rs53 billion funds for the free flour scheme, the official mentioned that almost Rs28 billion were being spent on general subsidy on flour which was keeping the flour prices at lower side. Additionally, last year the Punjab government had spent almost Rs10 billion in establishment and subsidy on different items in special Ramazan bazaars across the province. This Rs10 billion divided among flour subsidy in Ramazan bazars, agriculture marketing fair price shops for sale of selected vegetables and fruits, and sugar subsidy and almost Rs2.5 billion on establishment. This amount is also added to the free flour subsidy scheme.

However, after removal of general subsidy from the flour, its price increased in the open market and with upward revision of wheat release price from Rs2,300 per 40kg to Rs3,900, price of a 10kg flour bag increased by Rs510 to Rs1,158 instead of Rs648. Similarly, 15kg wheat flour bag, being supplied by flour mills under private grain arrangements has also been increased by Rs200 to Rs2,100.

The free flour scheme is for one month only while the government has been working on the modalities and amount for cash transfers for the targeted subsidy on the pattern of the BISP as the general subsidy from wheat flour is removed, the official said, adding that the government could not supply free flour every month. The finance dept was assigned to come up with the available resources and funds for the direct cash transfer scheme for the poor.