May 6, 2021 7:33:37 pm
Punjab, the highest contributor of wheat to the Central pool over the years (barring 2020), has already purchased 95% of its total expected procurement of 13 million tonnes (130 lakh metric tonnes) of the crop in just 26 days this year till May 5, data released by the state government showed. This, the data further shows, is 7% more than the procurement made last year in the same number of days.
“Punjab managed this feat with 40% less labour that usually comes from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh (UP) and West Bengal. A large number of labourers either have not come here this year or have gone back due to the Panchayat elections in UP, assembly election in Bengal or uncertainty over the lockdown situation,” said Darshan Lal, president of Khanna Mandi Labour Union.
Till Wednesday, a total of 12.4 million tonnes of wheat arrived at the mandis, out of which at least 12.3 million tonnes had been purchased by government agencies. Last year, during the first wave of Covid-19, the state had begun procurement of wheat on April 15 — against April 10 this year — and had purchased only around 11.5 million tonnes by May 10 (26 days), records showed.
The overall purchase of wheat has been 99% from mandis, with respect to arrival till Wednesday, which included 100% purchase in 15 districts and 94% to 99% purchase in 7 districts.
The transportation of the wheat, which was very slow from the mandis in the beginning due to several reasons, has also started picking up now and around 8.1 million tonnes has been transported to government godowns from grain markets.
Like last year, this year too Punjab Food and Civil Supply Department — along with Punjab Mandi Board (PMB) — have made 3438 purchase centres operational, which includes 1849 already existing grain markets, purchase centres and temporary yards. Till date, 19.23 lakh passes have been issued to the farmers to bring their crop to mandis, to ensure all Covid appropriate norms are followed.
There are over 12 lakh farmers who have to bring their crop to the mandis, with several of them bringing their crop to the mandis 2-3 times.
Daily 70,000 to one lakh coupons are issued. A farmer can bring his produce to the mandi in his tractor-trolley once on the production of one coupon.
“We are trying to avoid crowding in the mandis and the coupons are being issued in a staggered manner, so that farmers come turn by turn,” said a senior officer in the PMB, adding that a control room has been set up to handle daily queries and complaints regarding issuing of coupons to farmers and other discrepancies. “This time, very few complaints have been being received so far. Till date, we have received only 797 complaints and all of them have been addressed. Last year, we had received over 3000 complaints in 26 days,” he said.
According to officials, there was a shortage of 20% gunny bales (one bale has 500 bags), which the government was trying to tackle by encouraging the reuse of bags through arhtiyas (commission agents). The arhtiyas procure the used bags from the market and then sell it to the government at Rs 41.90 paisa per bag. The state at present requires 5.24 lakh bales (26.20 crores bags) in total.
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