LAHORE - The government submitted 41 demands for grants worth Rs1.8 trillion at the Punjab Assembly on Wednesday, starting the process for approval of budget for fiscal year 2020-21. The opposition submitted 11 cut motions, of which six were approved for debate.  Two demands worth over Rs188 billion were passed by the House with majority, rejecting cut motions presented by the opposition. The session started one hour and 30 minutes behind the scheduled time with Speaker Ch Parvez Elahi in the chair.  The opposition submitted cut motions on food and grain, agriculture, police, education, health and miscellaneous. Only two of these were debated in the House.

Opposing the cut motion, Minister for Food Abdul Aleem Khan said that those ruling the country for 30 years were asking that why dams were not build. He said for the third time, the farmers got full price of wheat as his department set a target of 4.5 million tons for wheat procurement to ensure food security. He said at present the food department is in a deficit of Rs550 billion. He hoped the farmer would grow more wheat next year. He said the government would change the subsidy policy next year and only the deserving and poor would be given the benefit through direct subsidies.

He said the department was going to release wheat to the mills next week to bring down prices of flour. He said the decision on the rate at which wheat would be given to the mills was to be taken in the cabinet meeting on Thursday and therefore, the opposition’s cut motion was not valid and the same should be rejected. Agriculture Minister Noman Langarial said that a bumper wheat crop had been harvested in the province this year. He claimed that the government had surplus wheat at its storages and that the grain being imported were meant for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other provinces and not Punjab.

He dispelled the impression that locusts had caused a heavy damage to crops in the province and claimed that the government took timely steps to contain the menace.

He said a new wheat seed with better output was to be introduced next year. On the completion of time, the chair adjourned the session till Thursday (today) at 2pm.