Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder yesterday asked all deputy commissioners to ensure that paddy is bought directly from farmers for meeting the government’s rice procurement target.
“We set a target of buying four lakh tonnes of paddy from farmers in the current Boro season. So far, we have procured about 1.15 lakh tonnes. The deputy commissioners are helping with the process,” he told reporters after joining a session on the third day of the DC conference in the capital.
“We asked them [DCs] to strengthen the paddy procurement process. Our officials will be more active. We asked them [DCs] to send the UNOs [Upazila Nirbahi Officers] to the field to expedite the process,” said Sadhan.
Currently, the Office of the Upazila Controller of Food purchases paddy from farmers at the upazila level, and the Office of the District Controller of Food procures paddy at the district level. The UNOs monitor the process in upazilas and the DCs in districts, said officials.
Since 1991, the Directorate of Food bought only 15 percent of its total annual purchase of the staple in the form of paddy from growers while it procured the rest 85 percent in the form of rice from millers.
As a result, millers have gained more from the government’s food grain procurement policy, the number one objective of which is to provide price support to farmers.
The minister’s comments come at a time when farmers in many areas are getting prices much lower than their production costs.
Frustrated by low prices, many farmers have threatened to stop growing rice.
“We don’t have any food crisis now. We have enough stocks of food and relief. We are prepared to face any situation,” Sadhan said in response to a query whether the current flood would create any food crisis in the country.
When Shadan’s attention was drawn to the DCs’ proposal for setting up offices of the Food Safety Authority at district and divisional levels, he said the government would do that to intensify drives against food adulteration.
He also said the government will build separate silos for storing paddy.
HUNT FOR MIDDLEMEN
Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmed said he sought assistance from the DCs to bring to book middlemen, who are alluring overseas jobseekers and putting them in danger abroad.
“These middlemen loot overseas jobseekers. They take Tk 7 lakh from each jobseeker while the cost of sending one abroad is Tk 1.50 lakh. Those who go abroad with middlemen’s help become undocumented,” he told reporters.
When his attention was drawn to the DCs’ proposal for providing smart cards to overseas jobseekers at the district level, he said, “The government has already taken steps on this matter. We have a plan to provide these cards from the digital centres in the unions across the country.”
The cards contain all information furnished in jobseekers’ passports, their fingerprints, and the names and licence numbers of the recruiting agencies, allowing the authorities to identify all the parties involved in the migration process.
ONION PRICES TO FALL
Prices of essentials like onion and garlic will come down within 15 days, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said after a session with the DCs.
Rain and fall in onion import from India have resulted in a hike in its prices, he pointed out.
He claimed that the government has been successful in keeping the prices of essentials in control.
The minister asked the DCs to remain alert against food adulteration.
SECURITY TIGHTENED AT COURTS
Emerging from the session, Law Minister Anisul Huq said a proposal on salaries of public prosecutors (PPs) and additional PPs was sent to the finance ministry.
At present, the PPs and APPs don’t draw any monthly salary. They are paid on the basis of their attendance at court hearings.
“We have already instructed the superintendent of police in Cumilla to scale up security at court... Security at all courts across the country will be tightened,” Anisul said replying to a query on security at courts following the murder of a man in front of a judge and policemen at a packed courtroom in Cumilla on Monday.
About a deputy commissioner’s proposal for giving DCs the authority to empower executive magistrates to deal with sections 98, 108, 110, 144, 145 and 147 of the CrPC, Anisul said it is not possible to consider the proposal right now.
“We will hold discussions to decide whether it is needed or not. The relevant law has to be amended for implementing such a proposal.”
The minister also said the government will set up a cell to expedite the process of disposing of cases pending with courts across the country.
The cell comprising five or six deputy attorney generals will help maintain liaison between the Attorney General’s Office and the DCs, he added.
JUTE WORKERS ‘INSTIGATED’
Textiles and Jute Minister Golam Dastagir Gazi claimed that an anti-government quarter is provoking the workers of state-run jute mills into waging a movement to create instability in the sector.
“Real workers don’t want to wage a movement… but an anti-government quarter is instigating them.”
The minister said state-owned jute mills are struggling to compete with those in the private sector following the raise in wages of public jute mill workers in line with the recommendations of the National Wages and Productivity Commission 2015.
The government has a plan to operate the state-run jute mills under Public-Private Partnership projects. “We are also considering a Chinese proposal for financial assistance.”
The minister said he had asked the DCs to enforce the Mandatory Jute Packaging Act 2010 to protect the interests of the jute growers and mills.
Meanwhile, Justice Muhammad Imman Ali, who is currently performing the functions of the chief justice in his absence, sought cooperation from the DC’s to ensure justice for people.
In a courtesy visit with the senior judge, the DCs called for digitisation of case documents and quick disposal of the cases related to lease of government properties.