LAHORE – The Punjab Assembly during the budget debate on Thursday heard the painful tale of acute shortage of water for irrigation and the dexterity of the bureaucracy to eat up money of the exchequer and suggestions to make the agricultural sector more powerful to strengthen the economy.
Midway proceedings of the session with Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan in the chair, PPP Deputy Parliamentary leader Shaukat Basra narrated the pathetic tale of the Bahawanagar farmers who were waiting for water for cotton crops over the last two months but without a drop so far. Basra said the farmers and their families were crying over the situation and would not survive if water was not provided to them.
Both hands clasped, Basra urged the Punjab government to provide water to them otherwise not only they but also the whole province would suffer as their share of water had been diverted to the upper Punjab.
Agriculture Minister Ahmad Ali Aulakh admitted that this season the Punjab was facing a historic shortage of water as the flow of water in Chenab and Jhelum rivers was much lesser than the required quantity while Mangla and Tarbela dams had also touched the dead level since March. He said where the water flow in the canal was 180 cusecs last season, only 40 cusecs were running at present which was dangerously short of requirement.
“The situation is the same in whole province, however, it is gradually improving with more water coming to the system from ice melting and availability of required water is expected in the coming days.” Aulakh informed.
The chair took an urgent notice of the matter and called for the same day a meeting of the minister, the secretaries concerned and other stakeholders to take stock of the water availability and find out a solution.
During the budget debate, Ahmad Hussain Dahar of PPP asked the members to search their soul to know if they succeeded in delivering the masses, to end crime and corruption, bring down prices of the commodities and contribute to the establishment of a good society.
“We are far short of that for the reason of bureaucracy which very smartly pursues the policy of divide and rule to pit the politicians against each other and exploit the situation for their own monetary benefits,” Dahar held.
The PPP MPA accused the babus of conspiring against the rulers and guiding them in a manner that benefits always turn to its own side and ultimate sufferer remained the poor and the blame went to the politicians. In the present projects of the Punjab government, he said, the babus had once again befooled the rulers so much so that completion of the Ring Road had been delayed by months to their benefits, newly-constructed Muslim Town flyover was being broken for an ill-planning on their part, cost of the transport project had been risen from Rs1.5 billion to Rs22 billion only for their benefits.
Makhdoom Syed Ahmad Mahmood of PML-F lamented that printing of the currency notes and mismanagement and corruption in PIA, Railways, Steel Mills, Wapda and others departments had brought the national economy on the verge of collapse.
He said during a meeting with President Zardari he also stressed the need of managing affairs of these departments which however could come through competent and honest persons only.
Ahmad appreciated the demand for Bahawalpur province. He also voiced for ensuring right to Baloch people. He made suggestions for improving the capacity of the livestock department which could give a big boost to the provincial economy. He also asked all parties to reach consensus on CEC, caretaker set up and next election date as well.
Seemal Kamran of PML-Q criticised the government for pursuing the same projects initiated by Pervaiz Elahi government and said had the government also followed power policy of that government, no loadshedding would have had been today.
Ahmad Khan Baloch of PML-N praised the budget and suggested for allocating more funds for agriculture sector, revamping the police investigations and transfer of investigations system through amendment in the Police Rules and appointing officers on merit instead of SI as SHO in police stations.
PPP MPA Makhdoom Muhammad laid stress on proper use of ADP funds as previous year, Rs 55billion of that remained unspent in the revised budget. He said Rs60 billion had been earmarked for the police when the performance of this department was very poor.
Humaira Awais Shahid stressed the importance of corporate farming involving the donors who, she said, had previously promised interest-free loans for this sector. She said the agriculture policy turned into corporate farming would bring about a social change but in the past it had been impeded by the bureaucracy.