Authorities in Punjab scrapped the Sasti Roti scheme after the Rs7.85 billion loan debt accrued from commercial banks was left unpaid by the food department owing to non-provision of funds earmarked in the financial years 2009-10 and 2010-11, The Express Tribune has learnt.

This is in stark contrast with a provincial government claim that it had scaled back the scheme as Rs5 billion allocated for the purpose in the current financial year had been diverted into a pool of funds for flood rehabilitation and reconstruction activities. But an official document shows that only Rs1.6 billion out of the cash earmarked for subsidy on Sasti Roti was contributed in funds released for flood-hit areas.

The flood in fact helped deflect criticism away from the pilferage in subsidised wheat flour, nepotism in grant of quota and lack of a proper mechanism to monitor the self-claimed, pro-poor scheme during the last two years, several officials said. Since October 2008, the provincial government had pumped more than Rs9 billion into this “ill-planned, merely conceptual and unfocused subsidy scheme for political motives,” they added.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif even sacked two provincial secretaries, one commissioner and three district coordination officers who opposed the scheme.

The scheme was not well-thought out and was started in haste owing to which above 70 per cent of tandoors located in posh areas attached with hotels and food outlets were taken into the network by the official concerned for ulterior motives.

After five months of subsidised wheat flour, the government came around to the viewpoint of the food and finance departments and discontinued supplies to 20 per cent of tandoors attached with eateries frequently visited by well-off segments of society while cancelling their registration. Even 40 per cent pilferage of subsidised atta was reported in which the oven owner and the official of the district government were involved.

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