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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

This Singh is no king: ‘Pvt players will first lure us… and then will make us dependent on them’

Rimpa Singh, 42, of Kanakwal Bhanguan village under Sunam tehsil of Sangrur district, who owns 1.25 acre (almost half a hectare) land, said, as for the new Bills, “Private players will first allure us with a high price and then will make us solely dependent on them.”

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar | September 21, 2020 3:36:19 am
Punjab farmers, Marginal farmers protest, Farm bill, Private players, chandigarh news, Indian expressRimpa Singh at his farm.

As focus has shifted to farmers because of the agriculture Bills passed by Lok Sabha, here is how a marginal farmer, unsure of his future, has been going about his business.

Rimpa Singh, 42, of Kanakwal Bhanguan village under Sunam tehsil of Sangrur district owns 1.25 acre (almost half a hectare) land. He takes two acres of land on an annual lease and grows wheat aond paddy in these 3.25 acres. He has a debt of Rs 7.40 lakh — Rs 6 lakh from Cooperative Bank, Rs 40,000 from cooperative society and Rs 1 lakh from a finance company — to repay. The Punjab government has not waived off a single penny of his debt although he is eligible for its debt waiver scheme.

After getting his crop harvested with a combine harvester, he piles it up in the field itself and then arranges a tractor-trolley to take it to the village mandi (purchase centre), which is around 2 km from his field. If he is not able to sell in this mandi, he takes his crop to Sunam Mandi, which is more than 2o km from his village. The Punjab government has set up small mandis or purchase centres at various villages across the state where farmers of four-five nearby villages can sell their crops so that they don’t have to travel far and wide. “Sometimes the crop ripens a little late. By then the time for selling in village mandi is over, so I have to take it to Sunam, which is 23 km from my village,” said the poor farmer, who has studied up to Plus Two, sitting on a dharna in Patiala.

“I pay the owner of tractor-trolley Rs 800 per trip to the village mandi. Usually, he makes two rounds to transport the crop to the mandi. If the same crop is to be transported to the Sunam mandi then the expenditure is around Rs 1,500 per round. For distant mandis, they charge according to kilometres covered and for village mandi, they take rent of the vehicle,” Singh said.

“We have to depend on rented vehicles for transporting crops to mandis. How can we be expected to travel long distances to sell our crops to fetch a good price?” he asked.

Singh’s ordeal doesn’t end there. It takes him one to three days to sell his crop. After unloading the crop, the arhtiya (commission agent), who sells it to the government procurement agency, gets it inspected from the inspector of the procurement agency. If the moisture content is up to 18% then it is ready for sale but if it is higher then he has to spread the crop for drying purpose on mandi premises so that moisture comes down to the permissible limit. “It may take one to two days or even more. After that, the crop is cleaned and filled in the sacks by the labour of arhtiya for which I pay Rs 2.50 per quintal to the arhtiya,” Singh said.

In the mandi, he cannot leave his crop unattended because there are chances of theft. He incurs expenses of Rs 100-150 daily on food and tea. “We get MSP from arhtiyas by cheque after a few days,” he said.

He maintains there are areas of improvement in the system, like replacing faulty weighing machines in some mandis and protecting the crop against rains.

As for the new Bills, he said, “Private players will first allure us with a high price and then will make us solely dependent on them.”

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