Agri Business

Punjab Govt pays ₹10,085 cr online directly to farmers for wheat buy

Poornima Joshi T V Jayan New Delhi | Updated on April 27, 2021

The Centre has made it compulsory for States to make direct bank transfers to farmers for the foodgrains procured

The Punjab government has procured 84.15 lakh tonnes (lt) of wheat during the ongoing rabi marketing season and has remitted ₹10,085 crore into farmers’ accounts directly through online payment for the purchase.

“Till Sunday, we have transferred ₹10,085 crore to farmers through direct bank transfer,” Punjab Principal Secretary K A P Sinha told BusinessLine. The State plans to procure a total of 130 lt of wheat from Punjab’s farmers this season, he said.

The direct online payment is significant as it comes amidst the ongoing protests by farmers of Punjab and Haryana against the new farm laws passed by the Centre in September last year. The direct payment is seen as a move to sideline arthiyas (commission agents) in the two States, who are alleged to be behind these protests.

Compulsory DBT

This rabi season onwards, the Centre has made it compulsory for States to make direct bank transfers to farmers for the foodgrain procured from them by the Food Corporation of India. The foodgrains procured at the minimum support price fixed by the Centre are used for the public distribution system as well as other welfare schemes, such as the Pradhan Manti Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana revived in the aftermath of the Covid second wave.

The Punjab government had opposed the direct payment to farmers but fell in line after the Centre said it would not give the State any more exemption.

Though Punjab was among the last set of States to start procurement operations, it has purchased more than Haryana and Madhya Pradesh. Punjab, which has a total of 1,872 mandis, has doubled the number of procurement centres this time due to Covid-19 precautions.

Till Sunday, the FCI and the State procurement agencies procured 222.33 lt of wheat compared with 77.57 lt in the same period of the previous rabi marketing season, which was initially marred by the Covid-related lockdown. Of this, Punjab accounted for close to a third, while Haryana contributed 71.76 lt and Madhya Pradesh 51.57 lt. Procurement commenced in Madhya Pradesh on March 15 and in Haryana on April 1.

Sinha said electronic transfer of payment has been happening in Punjab earlier too, but the State government used to transfer the funds to arthiyas, who would then transfer to their customer-farmers’ electronically. Arthiyas made the transfer after deducting the farmers’ dues to them. The challenge before the government was to register all the farmers in a short period of time, he said.

While Sinha said Punjab has paid ₹10,085 crore to its farmers, as per the accounts available with the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, the payment made is around ₹8,180 crore. A release by the Ministry said the total value of procured grains would be around ₹43,192 crore and 21.74 lakh farmers across the country have benefited from the buying so far. Farmers in Haryana, on the other hand, had received ₹4,668 crore till Sunday.

Meanwhile, All India Kisan Sabha Punjab state Secretary Major Singh Punnawal, who is among the leaders behind farmers' protest, said the harvest is a product of the hard work of the farmers and to ensure procurement, they had to lead a number of protests.

"There was not a single week that passed without any protests since this government assumed power at the Centre. Be it procurement, be it availability of fertilisers, be it increasing price of diesel and power, farmers had to raise their voice. This year too, the production was done after collective work by farmers. Villagers helped in the harvest and other activities of protesting farmers in Delhi. Yet, procurement is not complete. We are getting a number of complaints about delay in payment," Punnawal said.

Published on April 26, 2021

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