Updated: April 13, 2021 8:19:17 am
Just when he was ready to harvest his standing wheat crop and ship it to the mandi, farmer Nihal Singh (name changed) from Bathinda’s Baluana village was thrown off balance by an unlikely demand from his arhtiya. Nihal Singh alleges that he was asked to provide a signed black cheque to the arhtiya against payment of a loan of Rs 2 lakh taken two years back.
While the farmer has been paying regular instalments to the arhtiya for the past four cropping seasons and has paid amount equal to the principal, he was told that Rs 1 lakh was still outstanding against the interest due. The arhtiya’s demand ensured that Nihal delayed harvesting his crop till deciding whether to furnish the signed cheque or not.
“I assured him that I will pay the entire amount due, but he is not ready to take my word and asked me to give a blank cheque signed by me or my crop will not be auctioned by him in the mandi. But I have not yet to decide on it,” said the farmer who owns five acres of land, adding he is unlikely to give a blank cheque fearing that the arhtiya will encash the entire amount due at one go, while had planned to pay it in two instalments.
Farmers in several areas like Jalandhar, Khanna, Faridkot, Sangrur and Mansa have pointed to similar demands being made by their arhtiyas.
Jagsir Singh, farmer leader of BKU (Ugrahan) from Bathinda, said that several farmers have approached them and informed about this development, adding that apart from cheques, Aadhaar cards are also being asked for in some cases.
“We have stopped them from doing so and asked them to wait till the time our senior leaders takes a decision on the matter,” said Jagsir, adding that arhtiyas are worried that farmers will not pay their money back after getting direct payment from the government.
Farmer Jagtar Singh of Ganga Nathana village said that while he has harvested his crop on 7 acres, his arhtiya has said that auction of his crop will be done only when he will provide him with a signed blank cheque. Jagtar had borrowed Rs 3 lakh from his arhtiya for the marriage of his daughter four years back and has been paying money in instalments at the time of procurement.
Farmer Joga Singh of Sangrur has a similar story to tell. He said that his arhtiya has asked him to give a signed blank cheque before bringing his crop to the mandi.
“I was ready to take my crop of three acres to the mandi but arhtiya said that the auction will happen only after I will give him a blank cheque,” said Joga, who had taken Rs 4 lakh debt from his arhtiya in 2014 and has been paying back during procurement seasons of Kharif and Rabi crops, but still more than Rs 2 lakh dues are pending.
Earlier, arhtiyas would deduct their instalment and given the remaining amount to the farmer. But the new DBT system has upset that payment cycle.
An arhtiya from Khanna Mandi said that they are taking blank cheques from farmers as a security, adding that both arhtiyas and farmers know that during every procurement season only pre-decided amount would be deducted.
Ravinder Singh Cheema, president, Arhtiya Association Punjab, said that arhtiyas pay farmers whenever they need money and then they pay to arhtiyas back during procurement season and only this cycle was being followed
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