An alumnus of Aligarh Muslim University, Mir Mushtaq, started his stint in government services as district social welfare officer. As his years in office spanned, he was inducted into KAS rank. During his ten years tenure in state finance department (from 2000-2010), the tax revenue increased three-folds, which later won him gold medal from state government in 2011. Presently serving state as the director consumer affairs and public distribution (CAPD) Kashmir, he tells Bilal Handoo as why CAPD is full of challenges.
Kashmir Life: Why state needs to make arrangements on war-footing basis every year to make stocks available on the onset of winter?
Mir Mushtaq: Look, sometimes food grains aren’t available throughout winters. As such, there is no situation for crisis in Kashmir. It is just that delay in transportation creates panic among public. CAPD is full of challenges. Its field of operation is vast. When I headed the department in January 2012, there were many challenges in front of me. Though the buffer stock of food grains was available, but other essential commodities were scarce and remained problematic for the people. I involved my team, made strategies and worked to improve the situation. I ordered to sell LPG cylinders with only 5 kg gas, so as to curb black marketing and benefit as many people as possible.
Last year I had reserved buffer stock of food grains for two months. In Sept. 2012, new scheme in LPG triggered a public outcry as paper work took time. But at last, the issue was amicably resolved. And then, from April 2013, we started LPG home delivery. The model worked…
KL: But when LPG crisis seems over, sugar crisis hit the common man.
MM: You see, it happened as government of India (GOI) changed the sugar procurement process. Initially GOI would pass subsidy directly to Food Corporation of India (FCI), which would subsequently distribute it to states. Now the centre has asked states to purchase the sugar themselves. And then, we drafted the purchase community and issued tenders. It took us two months to formalise the procedure. During the same time, people faced the sugar crisis.
KL: And what is the preparation of CAPD for this winter?
MM: We have ample buffer stocks of food grains and other essential commodities in place. We have already supplied and dumped stocks in all areas of the Valley for six months. Stocks of rice, wheat, kerosene and LPG are sufficient. You know, when I joined the office of CAPD, we used to have 1.30 lakh LPG cylinders in our stock, which has now swelled up to 3 lakh. Let me assure, our arrangements are complete.
KL: But how are you supposed to check black-marketing during winters whenever roadblock cuts the Valley from the rest of the world?
MM: Our enforcement wing remains in the market round the clock to check it. We are taking cognizance of everything. So far, we have streamlined the prices of meat and milk. Throughout this year, we have reviewed as well as revised the prices.
KL: People often complain that public distribution stores lack transparency, why is it so?
MM: There is an established mechanism in place in CAPD, which ensures transparency. We have directed every storekeeper to hang a list of instructions and distribute the ration accordingly. But let me tell you, it is a common man who is violating the norms. The centre has accorded 35 kgs of rice per ration card. But 35 kg aren’t enough for a single ration card holder in Kashmir. People visit stores and takes 50 kg bag rice instead. There is toll free number which people can use to register their grievances.
KL: But in spite of list of instructions in place, there are growing complaints against CAPD that it has issued ration card to non-locals, while denying the same to locals?
MM: Look we are receiving the fixed stock of food grains from central government and at the same time, population is surging. So it is not possible for us to issue new ration cards as of now with limited supply of food-grains. If we do, then it would trigger a crisis in the Valley.
So far, the issuance of ration cards to non-locals is concerned, let me tell you, we haven’t issued any ration card to them. They (non-locals) are making use of the ration cards of locals. We have strict laws in place, so there is no question of issuing any ration card to them.
KL: As agricultural fields are shrinking across the Valley, is it going to put more pressure on CAPD? If yes, how will you address the issue?
MM: Of course as the agriculture lands are shrinking, CAPD is feeling the pressure of providing food grains to swelling populace of the Valley. We are demanding to increase our ration quota from central government, besides we are working on a strategy to deal with this situation.
KL: And what is your immediate challenge as CAPD director?
MM: My challenge remains to smoothen the transport process of food grains from warehouses to stores.