BAHAWALNAGAR - Passco officials earned millions of rupees through sleight of hand in the weighing and misappropriation in the distribution of gunny bags in the recently concluded wheat procurement campaign, fleecing the poor farmers and growers at will, local landlords claimed while talking to The Nation.

The local farmers, landlords and public representatives levelled serious allegations against the local Passco officials including Deputy General Manager (DGM) and demanded a thorough probe to fix responsibility and punish the guilty officials.

According to former UC Mohammad Pur nazim Rashid Wattoo, former Kissan Board president Mohammad Husain Bodla, Hafiz Abdul Waheed Dhudi, Kissan Board Senior Vice President Shahzad, landlords including Syed Munir Shah, former Tehsil Khidmat Committee chairman Bahadur Sher Bodla, former Donga Bonga UC naib nazim Pirzada Subah Sadiq informed that about 1.3 million gunny bags were distributed by the Passco through 22 centres established across Bahawalnagar district.

They pointed out that although a farmer was allowed to get only 200 bags as per the law but Passco official doled out thousands of bags to single but influential landlords and earned several million rupees as commission in return. This was blatant violation of the law for personal gains which has not only deprived both the farmers and government of millions of rupees but also earned distrust for the Passco which otherwise should be hold in esteem,” they argued.

Disclosing the names of few landlords who got gunny bags more than the allowed quota on commission, the aggrieved growers and farmers claimed that one Fiaz Sukhera, a grain market trader from Minchinabad, got 20,000 bags at the rate of Rs80 per bag, consequently the Passco officials earned Rs1.6 million in this regard.

Similarly, 10,000 bags were issued to one Sulman Laleka. Moreover, although issuance of gunny bags to the farmers of other district is strictly prohibited, the Passco officials, showing scant regard for the law, issued 50,000 bags to Imran, a resident of District Pakpattan at the rate of Rs70 per bag by minting Rs3.5 million from this illegally transaction. Meanwhile, the Passco officials also earned about Rs37 per bag which totalled up Rs8.4 million by taking excess weight of wheat filled gunny bag during the procurement drive.

The standard weight for 100 kg wheat filled bag is 101.2 kg, while the Passco official took weight at 102.6 kg per bag, they pointed out, adding that the sleight of hand and daylight robbery with the poor growers could be proved at any time by taking weight of the bag. A part from all these anomalies and misappropriations, they alleged that the Passco Director General collected Rs7 per bag from each Passco inspector, spinning Rs9.1 million from the wheat procurement in the district.

They pinpointed another anomaly that Inspector deputed at wheat purchase centre in Chabiana, Naseer Lashari purchased 70,000 gunny bags out of which 50,000 were sold at the Rs80 per bag, earning about Rs4 million from this shady deal. However, the rest 20,000 bags were distributed on merit among growers,” they acknowledged.

The farmers, landlords and growers expressed their concern that how the Passco officials mint money from the wheat procurement by looting the poor grower on one plea or the other. They demanded the government to spring into action against these corrupt officials and handed them exemplary punishment after a thorough investigation.

Such officials are blots on the reputation of the Passco, they through their misdeed, not only deprived the poor farmers and growers of their right b but also earned a bad name to the department concerned,” they elaborated.  This correspondent made several attempts to contact the Passco authorities concerned but to no avail. Meanwhile, the Passco DGM refused to comment when contacted.