Ahead of the paddy procurement season, beginning next month, over 3,000 rice millers in Punjab have opposed the state government’s move to collect paddy transportation charges of the past 11 years from them by calling it “illegal”.
The Rice Millers Welfare Association (Punjab), which met in Jalandhar on Monday, announced that millers in the state would not store the government-procured rice this season and may hold dharnas or seek legal recourse if the government fails to address their problem.
Rakesh Jain, president of the association, said that rice mill owners have received a notice from the state government asking them to pay Rs 3 per quintal transportation charge of paddy since 2004-05.
“There is no such written clause that millers have to pay this amount as procurement agencies get the transportation charges from the government. How could the government ask us to pay the charges of the past 11 years,” Jain said, adding that as per law any pending dues should be recovered within three years.
According to Jain, around 120-130 metric lakh tonnes paddy is milled every year in Punjab. “If we calculate the transport charge of paddy of the past 11 years at the rate of Rs 3 per quintal, then it will come to several thousand crores. How can millers pay this amount?… It is nothing, but a ploy to recover the money for Rs 12,000 crore wheat scam from the millers of Punjab,” he added.
The Centre, he said, has also stopped paying Rs 10 per quintal milling charges to the millers from this year. “Moreover, the Centre has asked us to deposit Rs 17.62 per quintal milled rice from this season against the leftover products. As a result, we will lose Rs 27.62 per quintal from this season apart from the transport charges levied on us,” said Jain, who accused Punjab Food And Civil Supply Minister Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon of not taking up the matter seriously with the Centre.
Punjab is expecting a bumper rice production of 150 lakh metric tonnes this year. After the government agencies procure paddy, it is stored in the premises of rice miller from where they are transported to Food Corporation of India godowns.
If the miller does not allow their premises to store rice, the government will find it difficult to store the procured rice.