EDITORIAL: There’s a reason PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) is being blamed, and will not be able to escape responsibility, for the wheat crisis in Punjab. Simply blaming the interim government for importing three million tonnes of the commodity, when there was no need for it, and then cutting the procurement target by half because of the inevitable carryover, will wash with nobody, especially the suffering farmers, because everybody knows that the caretaker chief minister was their man in the province.

And now, to make things worse, they are harassing and arresting protesters, accusing them of carrying out the agenda of a political party, while still delaying procurement and hurting farmers even more. The natural result of this series of completely unforced and shocking policy decisions is that Punjab, the breadbasket of the country, is paralysed, and its staple food could be compromised.

Let’s not forget that the farming community has the most number of families in the whole country associated with it. Upsetting this demographic in this unnecessary manner betrays not just policy incompetence but also a shocking lack of understanding of basic politics.

That’s why it’s not surprising that not only have the province’s opposition parties found common cause with the protesting farmers, but some members of the ruling dispensation are also left scratching their heads when they have to explain their government to their constituents; especially in light of all the promises made on the campaign trail.

Nobody expected farmers to fall for the sweeteners that the government is trying to sprinkle on them – promises of subsidies, etc. – so now there are even more unforced errors to untangle so early in the government’s tenure.

The first thing the Punjab government needs to do is stop painting these protests in political colours. It must accept the mistakes that have been made and start presenting solutions that will work for everybody. Otherwise, its own leaders –- who go to these same farmers at the turn of every electoral cycle — will start facing more heat than they can handle, and more people will question this administration’s already shaky legitimacy.

The people have enough problems to deal with already. Unprecedented inflation and unemployment made the last few years the most difficult on record for the country’s middle- and lower-income classes. The last thing they need is any more incompetence or even vendettas of political leaders spilling over into their lives and making them yet more miserable.

People must know the real reasons for this crisis. Why was wheat imported and farmers compromised when there was no need? Why was the procurement target reduced without warning? Why was the procurement procedure suddenly changed from written forms to an online app when much of the rural population is not tech-savvy? Why the delay in procuring even the unfairly reduced quantity? And why are farmers, protesting to protect their rights, being treated like common criminals?

The Punjab government has its hands full over a crisis that should never have been triggered in the first place. Now it is making it worse by refusing to address it properly amid reports that some caretakers will soon find themselves in the dock over excessive wheat import.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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KU May 04, 2024 06:45am
It's not only wheat heist by the the corrupt but decades of exploitation of other crops as well. The carnage of subsidies, costly inputs have made farmers bankrupt, we are on road to food shortages.
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Azeem Hakro May 04, 2024 11:53am
Last year’s wheat production was 28.4 MT. this year also seems to be a bumper crop, but the question still remains: how much wheat has been produced this year? we r surplus or not. let us first sure
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KU May 04, 2024 01:53pm
Last year, section 144 was used by Asst. Commissioners to raid farms to procure n fill the coffers of food department and fulfil government claims of bumper wheat crop. Mysterious ways of La La Land.
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Ch K A Nye May 05, 2024 09:49pm
@Azeem Hakro, Sadly we are dependent on the bureaucracy for statistics and they are notorious for inaccurate information.
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Kisan Card May 06, 2024 02:11pm
@KU, I agree with you You can read more about this 8171update.pk Par
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