The buzzword in the bureaucratic circles of the province, though not so much in public, is the sasti roti that the Punjab government is struggling to supply to ordinary folks in the city at Rs two. From Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to the town-level officers the mantra that being sung is the sasti roti. All resources and energies are spent on this popular scheme to make it a success story. For example, the district government, doing nothing else, is fixed on one point agenda these days and that is how to proceed forward with the sasti roti programme. Likewise, we also see party wings, office-bearers and ministers lending their hands to ensure the success of this scheme. As usual, they are full of praise for Shahbaz Sharif for accomplishing something next to impossible. The other day we noticed no less a person than Home Secretary of the province presiding over a meeting called to discuss the logistic side of the programme. The driving force of course is none other than Shahbaz Sharif himself. We all know that he is a determined person. These days he is fully focussed on making sasti roti more accessible to the public though against heavy odds. In typical of Shahbaz Sharif style of governance, we have regular follow-up meetings involving the whole bureaucratic hierarchy, monitoring the campaign in its totality. The officials involved in delivering sasti roti seem quite committed, fully behind their political master, not ready to allow anybody even to pick holes in the scheme, if any. However, most of them are not sure how long this scheme will continue. During Shahbaz's meetings with a cross-section of society, it is the very topic that consumed most of his time and imagination. He wants greater participation of public in the scheme to make it more meaningful in achieving its objectives. Since the launch of this programme that came about during last Ramazan, the restaurant owners and Nan bais are a bit off colour, as if hauled over the coals. They are not probably ready to give up their autonomy to increase prices wilfully whenever they deem fit. As such the hide and seek game between the government and these restaurants continues. These nan bais are more interested in cooking stuff other than roti, mostly unavailable at these outlets. Nan and other stuff not part of this scheme are more readily available but at inflated rates. To make up their profits, they have increased the prices of other food items. One needs to part with at least Rs. 50 with these people for a small plate of daal and roti. The experts and flour millers are also watching the government in the belief that the scheme could not be sustained. This is the biggest initiative so far launched by the Punjab government since the Sharifs are back in business. Cheap roti was also an answer to the criticism levelled by his rivals that government failed to check the rising inflation. Before they were in the quest of bright ideas to translate them into reality. The Sharifs also like to do popular politics. This initiative will surely bring them some political dividends. For Shahbaz Sharif, it will again establish his credentials as a tough taskmaster and person who means business. Before that the political instability that started with a power struggle between the centre and province never allowed him to focus on the affairs of the province with peace of mind. The move to supply cheaper roti came when the financial position of the province is not very sound. Also lack of funds will come as biggest obstacle in the way of Shahbaz Sharif in pursuing his development and welfare agenda in days to come. For ordinary folks, like myself, the campaign to provide cheaper roti to the masses sounds quite pleasing. But when one finds the cost being incurred on the provision of this roti, you become double-minded whether the roti is worth it. According to the reports appeared in this newspaper, the government spends Rs one billion every month to supply this special roti to the people of the city. If we extend this campaign to other provinces, which should have been the case from the start as why this privilege for the Lahoriites only, a lot more amount would be required. Some experts think that annually Rs 28 billion would be spent on this scheme. It appears that scheme makes little impact when we compare it with the cost it entailed to ensure the supply of this special roti. It only caters to a limited class living in the city without their families. Most of us hardly benefit from these tandoors and restaurants. For most of us subsidised atta is a bigger priority. As such spending such a huge amount on a project for a limited section of society makes little sense. E-mail: nadeemsyed@nation.com.pk