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Monday, January 25, 2021

Punjab ministers to meet Goyal over RDF today

If the state does not get RDF on paddy, it would cost the exchequer about Rs 1,250 crore in paddy season alone, Punjab Food Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu said.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh | December 24, 2020 10:18:29 am
Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)

Two months after the Centre refused to keep a provision for Rural Development Fund (RDF) in the Cash Credit Limit extended for the current paddy procurement season, the state is still awaiting the amount even after Chief Minister Amarinder Singh took it up with the Union government.

If the Centre does not accede to the state’s demand by December 31, the CCL for paddy will lapse and the state would lose Rs 1,250 crore due to the state on account of RDF on paddy, Punjab Food Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu told The Indian Express on Wednesday.

He said he and Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal will meet Union Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday at 7 pm to take up the issue with him.

“We were not able to get an appointment with the minister. We have been trying for many days. It was after Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s intervention that the meeting has been fixed. We hope the Union minister will listen to us tomorrow,” he said.

The Centre had not kept the provision for RDF in the CCL limit and sought scrutiny of how the state spends the money. “We sent them the details of the money spent out of the fund to the Centre within a week of their writing. But they have not done anything,“ Ashu said.

In the CCL  extended to the state by the Centre for paddy procurement in October, the RD fee component was not accounted for in the provisional cost sheet for procurement of paddy. This meant that Punjab cannot withdraw RDF from the CCL it had received.

If the state does not get RDF on paddy, it would cost the exchequer about Rs 1,250 crore in paddy season alone, Ashu said.

The farm laws, against which the farmers have been protesting, do not provide for RDF and market fee for the states. As per the new agri laws, the states cannot charge any RDF and mandi fee from the buyers.

Punjab makes about Rs 3,500 crore annually on account of RDF and mandi fee, at rate of 3 per cent each of MSP, both charged from the buyers (in this case the Centre, as  foodgrains go to Central pool).

In a letter (dated October 23) to Secretary, Food and Civil Supplies, Punjab, the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Distribution had stated that “matters related to deductions from MSP made by state and utilisation of RD fee for the purpose of development of procurement centres are under scrutiny”.

In the provisional cost sheet attached along with the letter, no monetary provision was indicated towards the RDF. The column mentioning about the RDF had been kept blank with a footnote that the RDF was now under scrutiny.

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