LAHORE - The provincial assembly yesterday passed a bill to give autonomy to the Punjab Board of Technical Education (PBTE) separating it from the Punjab Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (Tevta).

The House presided over by Sardar Sher Ali Khan Gorchani, overruled with majority two objections raised by the Opposition to this amendment made to delink the two institutions that were clubbed together in 2010.

The Opposition member Sheila Ruth wanted more study to the separation of the two as in her view the Board as autonomous institution will be under the Secretary Education who, she added, had a questionable character that may open some Rs nine billion account in the Board to bungling.

Opposition members Waqas Ahsan, Khadija Umar and Nabeela Hakim Ali said amendment separates financial and administrative affairs of the Board from Tevta however without explaining which affairs.

Law Minister Rana Sana Ullah Khan said separation has been necessitated to address conflict of interest as Board as examining body was subordinate to the Authority that had put the upper body on a wrong order. He also said that Select Committee had approved the amendment after thorough study and debate so no exercise was required any more.

The bill then was voted in with majority of the Treasury benches.

Minister for Agriculture Dr Furrukh Javed wound up debate on the farmers and agriculture sector of Punjab on which over a dozen of members across the aisle had made their presentation earlier on 8 and 10 February wherein they had mostly blamed the government for negligence whereof cotton and sugarcane farmers particularly and agriculture sector generally was stuck up in myriad problems.

The minister at the outset admitted poor plight of the farmers but not to that extent as was portrayed by the members. He said our farmer is not starving although his financial condition needed a lift for which government is working on a comprehensive plan. He said Punjab has attained autarky in wheat and the benefit of it has dominantly gone to the growers.

This is a ‘cycling change’ to focus on wheat that indeed has took away due attention on some crops, the minister said adding, gradually that crops are also being attended and within two/three years a due proportion would be achieved in every yield.

Addressing criticism that India had better farming system, the minister counted lack of sustained policies, incessant military rules and stifling of democratic government as reasons for it since inception of the country. He negated that balance of agri trade was favour of India and added, slowly it was titling to Pakistan as import of India tomato and soya-bean was being matched with excessive export of onion, gypsum, fruits and other items to New Delhi. Many of our agri products are better than Indian and Bangladeshi.

As to cheap fuel, equipment and machinery to farmers in India, the minister said the government had fixed flat rate of Rs10.35 per unit of power for the tube well and had adequately transferred them benefit of reduced fuel rates.

Subsidy of billions of rupees is being given on these agri items, Dr Furrukh said informing the House that the government is subsidising laser level machine to the tune of Rs4.5lakh of the total Rs5.5 lakh each to enable farmers to make maximum use of minimum water and substantially increase the per acre yield of all crops.

He said a two-door programme has been launched to provide know-how of the use of fertilizers and pesticides at the doorstep. Apart from it, he added, the government has distributed thousands of mounds of quality wheat seeds to the farmers free of charge.

Same way it has lowered the GST from 17 per cent to seven per cent on agri products. He assured the house that soon after the government gets financial relief from the International institutions, this tax would be totally waived.

The minister also gave good news of successful growth of grapes and olive in pothohar areas which could be possible due to tube-welling and use of modern technique which made the rocky land cultivable.

He said Punjab is achieving more than India per acre yield of sugarcane and maize. He said Pakistan despite at 250 in contributing to the world greenhouse effect in this age of climate change is worst hit by changing weather condition.

The minister also estimated the ceiling of Rs80,000 tax on farmers too much and promised to take up the matter with the Finance Department to curtail that amount. In short term, he said the Prime Minister Kissan Package is providing Rs 5000 per acre to the cotton growers who faced slump in the price of this product at the international level and also allocation of Rs 20billion to provide fertilizers and the pecticites at the subsidized rate.

He said famers are being provided tractors and equipment 50 per cent less rates. Concluding his debate he said 80 per cent sugarcane growers this year and 90 per cent of the last year have been paid by the sugar mills while construction of silos was fast underway to preserve every grain of wheat.

During question hour on the department of Housing, Urban Development and Public Health Engineering the House learnt an interesting answer wherein DMD Wasa Syed Iqtidar Shah on being provisionally restored by the court after removal from service remained under inquiry since August 2012 and it could not complete for years till he and this inquiry office EDO Javed Ilyas both got retired.

The session resume the proceeding at 9am today (Friday).