Agri Business

Punjab begins direct online MSP payment to wheat growers; farmers reaction mixed

Our Bureau Chennai | Updated on April 21, 2021

We faced problems initially in implementing DBT: State Food Minister

The Punjab Government has begun remitting online payment directly to farmers in their bank accounts towards procurement of wheat for the Centre’s buffer stocks, but not all farmers are happy.

From this year, the Centre has made it mandatory for States to make direct benefit transfer (DBT) to farmers for the foodgrain procured from them by the Food Corporation of India for buffer stocks.

The buffer stocks, procured paying growers the minimum support price fixed by the Centre for the crop, are used to distribute grains through rations shops for various benefit schemes, besides meeting any food emergency due to floods or drought.

“We have made good progress in DBT to farmers. Initially, we faced problems since a huge number of farmers are involved, besides arthiyas (commission agents),” Punjab Food and Civil Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu told BusinessLine.

The Punjab Government had sought exemption from DBT this year but the Union Government rejected its plea saying enough extension and exemption had been given.

“We have to handle at least 13.2 million tonnes (mt) of wheat involving over 1.2 million to 1.5 million farmers besides 20,000-25,000 arthiyas, who are key to the procurement system in Punjab,” Ashu said.

Arthiyas’ role

New licensing and billing had to be done, while registration had to be done on a new portal. “We faced problem as not many are used to this system. We got all of them trained under a master trainer, got them ready and moved them to the mandis (markets) in rural areas,” the minister said.

Until April 19, the Punjab Government had DBT payment to the tune of ₹1,150 crore. “Other payments are under process and farmers are happy to get them direct to their accounts,” he said, adding that earlier, too, online payments were made but through arthiyas.

“The Centre has changed our system asking us to pay directly to farmers. We are paying the arthiyas separately into their accounts,” Ashu said.

As a result, Punjab has procured 54 lakh tonnes (lt) of wheat till April 19, according to the minister.

“We have also faced farmers’ agitation, besides non-availability of gunny bags. Currently, we have got permission to utilise once-used bags,” Ashu said.

The Punjab Government had sought the Centre’s help in view of “some difficulties” it faced but the latter “did not help much”, the minister said.

Mixed feedback

Though Ashu said farmers were happy with the new system, feedback from the growers is mixed.

“The DBT is a very good system and farmers are happy with it,” said Raj Narayan Gupta, a Delhi-based flour miller.

“Farmers are happy with the new DBT payment but arthiyas are disappointed,” said Bhagwan Das, Secretary-General of Young Farmers Association Punjab.

“Arthiyas lend heavily to farmers and under the earlier system, they used to detect their dues and pay the remainder. Now, a situation could arise wherein farmers may not pay their dues. Thus, the arthiyas could face problem in recovery,” he said, adding that the ultimate objective seemed to eliminate the system of engaging commission agents.

Gurvinder Singh Gill of the Bharatiya Kisan Union said that he had sold his wheat a week ago but had not received the payment yet. “Under the DBT system, land records have to be provided. Most of the farmers have taken land on rent from people who live abroad. The payment could go directly to them and thus, those who have availed of the land on rent will have problems in getting the payment,” he said.

BK Singh, founder of BKC WeatherSys, said that farmers were unhappy with the DBT in Punjab and Haryana, going by the feedback he had received on “Fasal Salah” (crop advisory) app he owns.

“Farmers think the old system was good with regard to ease of doing business. Arthiyas offer a range of services at mandis in a professional way which farmers are finding difficult under the new DBT system,” he said.

He said that though farmers were not treated fairly under the old system, they still preferred it.

An agricultural produce aggregator from Punjab said that farmers know they would benefit from the direct payment transfer but the State Government had created an anti-Centre atmosphere to criticise any division that benefits growers.

“They are happy with the DBT payment,” the aggregator, who did not wish to be identified, said.

Published on April 21, 2021

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

  1. Comments will be moderated by The Hindu Business Line editorial team.
  2. Comments that are abusive, personal, incendiary or irrelevant cannot be published.
  3. Please write complete sentences. Do not type comments in all capital letters, or in all lower case letters, or using abbreviated text. (example: u cannot substitute for you, d is not 'the', n is not 'and').
  4. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.
  5. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name, to avoid rejection.