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Wheat Subsidy Cuts Unemployment Crisis in KP Flour Mills

This has created a dual burden – affordable flour is scarce, and hundreds of employees have languished in unemployment for months.

by TNN Editor - 03 Oct, 2023 1514

Bilal Yasir

Naseem Khan, a 35-year-old laborer, toiled at the Shandai Mor flour mill in Bajaur for two years. Driven by poverty, he had abandoned his education after the fourth grade and embraced hard work. Over time, he secured a permanent position at the flour mill, even taking on extra shifts to alleviate his financial struggles.

Then, one fateful day, the mill's manager delivered grim news – the supply of subsidized wheat to Bajaur district's flour mills had ceased, leading to the closure of all mills in the region. Workers and laborers were now left to fend for their own employment.

For the past five months, these mills have remained shuttered. Naseem Khan briefly found work as a custodian and maintenance worker in a peach garden for two months, but when the peach season concluded, so did his employment. Once again, his family grapples with severe financial hardship.

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According to Asad Khan, owner of Bajaur Flour Mills, his family has been entrenched in the flour mill business for generations. There was a time when those involved in this trade enjoyed prosperity, but recent years have brought misfortune. Initially, their mill was the sole one in Bajaur, but gradually, more mills emerged, most of which now stand dormant due to the absence of subsidized wheat. Typically, such mills employed around 20 workers each, leaving dozens unemployed.

Akbar Khan, hailing from Mamund, had been supporting his family through his employment at Bhakkar Flour Mill on Kharmunda Main Road for a year and a half. Over twenty employees worked at this flour mill. The wages he received used to sustain his family's basic needs, but now the mill owners have shut their operations due to the lack of wheat subsidies, rendering numerous workers, including Akbar, jobless.

Akbar, responsible for a family of eight, now scours the district for casual labor opportunities after losing his job. Some days yield employment, while others result in returning home empty-handed.

Syed Gul, president of the All Bajaur Flour Mills Association, disclosed that the supply of subsidized wheat to the Bajaur district's flour mills halted after March. Consequently, ten to fifteen flour mills in each district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Bajaur, have remained dormant for several months.

He lamented the differential treatment of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which receives subsidized wheat in certain districts of Punjab but has been deprived of wheat subsidies itself. Each district houses 10 to 15 flour mills, yet none receive wheat subsidies. This has created a dual burden – affordable flour is scarce, and hundreds of employees have languished in unemployment for months.

Gul appealed to government officials, urging them to reinstate wheat subsidies across all districts, including Bajaur. Such a measure would not only make affordable flour accessible to the public but also offer much-needed employment to hundreds struggling to find work.