LAHORE  - The former government had decided to write off loans issued to mechanical tandoor owners but on the Finance Department's refusal to approve the proposal the matter was put on the backburner.

The then government under sasti rotti scheme had issued loans to private people. Against an amount of Rs 65 million, Rs 30 million have been recovered while an amount of Rs 34 million is yet recoverable from 254 mechanical tandoor owners, official documents disclose. The act of writing off loans of defaulters would encourage further evasion and discourage those who returned the loans, the finance department observed while viewing the proposal. The former chief minister of Punjab had launched a loan scheme for installation of mechanical tandoors in 2008.

Accordingly, a credit assistance scheme for installation of 300 roti plants in 36 districts of Punjab was launched with an allocation of Rs 81 million under ADP 2008-9 and 2009-10.

Interest-free loans amounting to Rs 65 million at Rs 235,000 per loan were distributed to mechanical tandoor owners. Rupees 6000 per tandoor were also provided as startup financial support. The loans were available in 58 equal monthly installments and secured with personal guarantees of government employees and post-dated cheques.

One of the reasons behind the default is said the government had stopped provision of subsidized flour to tandoors. However, the documents say that during a progress review meeting of the scheme held under the chairmanship of the chief minister on October 8, 2013, it was decided to put the recovery of monthly installments of loans on the hold till an appropriate mechanism is evolved. But, later, no mechanism could be developed.

When during 2015 and 16, the audit highlighted the issue of the outstanding amount, the government in 2017 again allowed recovery of the outstanding amount.

An official on privacy said a dialogue for the recovery under the scheme has been started; however, the response of the borrowers was not encouraging due to non-functioning of the mechanical tandoors. Out of the 273 owners, only19 had returned the full amount of loan. Moreover, out of these mechanical tandoors, only 96 are available at the site and the remaining have been removed.