Indefinite mass-leave protest against “harsh” working conditions has hit Punjab State Civil Supplies Corporation Limited (Punsup) in all districts except Patiala when wheat procurement is due to start from April 1.
The employees on leave include deputy district managers, field officers, inspectors, public distribution clerks, and accounts department workers. Ten district managers looking after 15 districts had on Tuesday called for this protest and started touring the state to mobilise members of the staff. Punsup procures 20% of the state’s wheat in the rabi season, besides paddy in kharif, on behalf of the Centre.
The protest has also affected the distribution of dal (lentil) among poor families under the state’s popular atta-dal scheme. The Punsup district managers of Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Ferozepur, Fazilka, Bathinda, Mansa, Muktsar, Faridkot, Moga, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr have joined the protest, and their counterparts from Sangrur, Barnala, Patiala, Fatehgarh Sahib, Rupnagar, SAS Nagar, and Ludhiana haven’t.
On Friday when the protest started, the Punsup employees staged demonstrations in Amritsar and Taran Taran and raised slogans against the management. The district managers plan to meet secretary of food and civil supplies Raj Kamal Chaudhary on Saturday. If the talks fail, it will jeopardise procurement.
“I have asked Punsup managing director (captain PS Shergill) to sort out the matter at earliest,” Chaudhary told HT. Shergill was unavailable for comments. Punsup’s head office on Friday sent field officers to take charge of the district offices in 15 districts, but all premises were found locked. Punsup’s suspending 15 employee of late is said to have triggered the protest. The two district managers; a couple of their deputies; a field officer; and 10 inspectors were suspended over discrepancies in procurement and storage of the 1509 variety of basmati rice in the previous kharif marketing season.
The district managers say they were forced to procure the variety. After its prices fallen on the open market, the government had decided to offer a minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1,450 per quintal and asked the district managers to procure it with whatever infrastructure available.
The district managers said they continued to be on probation even after almost five years of service.