While the state government has claimed to have made all arrangements for procurement of wheat, the tendering process for labour and transportation, loading, unloading and stacking of wheat bags from grain markets to godowns is yet to be completed.
The procurement season formally started from April 1 onwards. Bulk arrival of wheat is expected from April 7 onwards.
However, the tendering process is still at negotiation stage and the department of food, civil supplies and consumer affairs may take another week to complete the formalities.
It may be mentioned here that the delay in allotment of tenders and strike of labour and transport unions had dented the procurement drive last year, resulting in glut-like situation in grain markets across the state.
Even though the department started the process of tendering 15 days ago but the delay in allotment has raised questions about the preparations being made to ensure hassle free procurement of wheat.
Sources in the department told Hindustan Times that the delay was the result of strict instructions from the senior officials of the department to minutely scrutinise the documents, besides ensuring that the tenders must be allotted to labour and transport unions quoting minimum rates.
As per labour policy of the government, the minimum rate for loading and unloading is Rs 1.52 per 50kg gunny bag. In its transportation policy, the government has defined slabs from 3km till 84 km. The minimum rate in 0-3km slab is Rs 231 for 100 gunny bags of wheat. Bihari Lal, a transporter in Bathinda, said the last date of filing application was March 28 but the department was yet to start the negotiation process in Bathinda.
“The delay in allotting tenders has become an annual feature. There is no point in taking the tendering process online if the same delays mar it,” he said.
Meanwhile, deputy director of food and civil supplies, Anjuman Bhaskar, said the department had almost finalised two-thirds of the tendering process of labour and cartage while at some places, the negotiations were in progress.
“Wheat has not yet arrived in most of the mandis and wherever arrival is expected, all arrangements have been done. This is a competitive process and we have to go by the policy,” she said.
Bhaskar added that sometimes the quoted high rates, therefore negotiations were needed to break the monopoly of unions.