Hundreds Protest In Chitral Over Massive Increase In Wheat Price

Hundreds Protest In Chitral Over Massive Increase In Wheat Price
The residents of Chitral converged in large numbers on Saturday to protest a 100 percent increase in the price of wheat.

The protest, organised on the appeal of political parties of the valley, was attended by the representatives of trade union, drivers union, civil society, and commoners.

It started with a walk, which later converged at Ataleeq Square, where it was led by Jamaat-e-Islami chief Maulvi Jamshed.

Addressing the participants, the speakers said that people of Chitral are also Pakistanis and peace-loving citizens, but the government 'treats them like a stepmother'.

They noticed that the previous provincial government had issued a notification and allowed non-locals to open flour mills by closing all the watermills across the district.

The speakers added that from these flourmills, substandard quality flour, which is not suitable for human consumption, is provided to the people, while the supply of wheat at subsidised rates is banned.

The people of the area tolerated this, but now, the price of wheat has been increased by 100 percent and instead of Rs6,000, a bag of 100 kg of wheat is now available for Rs12,000, while the same bag is available for only Rs4,000 in Gilgit-Baltistan.

The protesters held banners inscribed with slogans against 'flourmill mafia', demanding that flour mills in Chitral be closed and wheat be supplied from the point of sale under the previous system so that people could buy it at their free will.

They demanded that it should instead be used in water mills because from the wheat crushed in the mill, fine flour and bran are separated and then an extremely substandard flour is sold to the public.

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The protesters also accused the mill owners of smuggling the flour from the valley to other districts. They alleged that on the day of the notification, there was a monthlong stock in the warehouses, which disappeared, and so there should be an investigation in this regard.

Those attending the protest also criticised the MNAs and MPAs elected from Chitral, who were not with the people when needed.

On the occasion, a unanimous resolution was also passed, demanding that the sudden increase in wheat price be withdrawn.

It also asked the food department to provide wheat from the warehouses after banning the mills, and for them to stop harassing the people at the warehouses.

The resolution warned that if the demands were not fulfilled, residents will be forced to opt for a shutter-down and wheel-jam strike, and the government will be responsible for the resulting law and order situation.

According to the official policy, the mill operating in Chitral will sell 70 percent of the flour to public at a cheap rate, while it is bound to sell 30 percent of it at its own discretion.

When contacted, Rehmat Wali Khan at the District Food Controller office said that the supply to the mills was stopped for nine days on public demand, which resumed on the directives of the provincial government.

He said that 200 maunds of wheat are given to people daily from the government warehouse of Chitral, and 180 maunds of wheat is sold from the Drosh warehouse. This wheat is provided to the mills.

As for the quota for the mills, the official rate is fixed and flour is supplied to people at the same rate, Khan maintained.

The correspondent also contacted mill owners but they did not answer the phone.