Burj Sema is a mandi (grain market) which caters to four villages of Bathinda — Burj Sema, Ramgarh Bhunder, Banger Mohabbat and Banger Charat Singh of Maur constituency. Procurement season started in Punjab on Wednesday, but farmers Jasbir Singh, Jagdish Singh and Pargat Singh were still sitting at the mandi with their stock on Thursday.
“We have been advised to stay indoors as much as possible. But what do we do when our wheat stock is not procured? We had to sleep at the mandi, we couldn’t leave our stock just like that,” Jasveer told The Indian Express.
Jasveer grows wheat on about 12 acres of land and had come with about 100 quintal. “I am a former member of the panchayat of Burj Sema village. There is no cleanliness at the mandi and there are no gunny bags as of now. So I have to wait till my wheat stock is sold. I can’t leave it with the ahrtiya. It is my hard work of a season.”
Sleeping at the mandi was an uncomfortable experience. “There was no light, no arrangement of water and soap. We did it on our own. As my village is 2.5 km away, I went home to eat food as we cannot go to anyone else’s house due to the COVID-19 scare,” said Jasveer, adding, “The rest stock of my stock is lying at my house. I will bring it gradually, we cannot take the entire stock in one go.”
Pargat Singh, another farmer of Banger Mohabbat, said, “An inspector from food and civil supplies came on Thursday afternoon and checked the stock. Wheat has been cleaned, but till the time it is not auctioned, I cannot leave. The mandi has not even been cleaned till now.”
Jagdish Singh, another farmer of Burj Sema village, came with around 70 quintal stock. “I came on April 15. I was told on Thursday that the auction will happen on Friday. I slept at the mandi on Wednesday and will do so today as well. There is no cleanliness, no bardana (gunny bags), no light, water or soap. These are the basic requirements in mandis whether we are fighting coronavirus or not.”
Balvir Singh, sarpanch of Burj Sema, said, “Farmers are wearing masks and are maintaining social distance. We will follow all instructions of the government, but we cannot leave the mandis till our stocks are sold out. Moreover, the mandis need to be cleaned. I will get a pass to go with my stock on Friday. I am harvesting in phases.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, R K Jain, tehsildaar of Maur, said, “We started procurement on April 16 and on the same day, 65 quintal was procured. The rest will be procured tomorrow. Someone stole the switch and main wire due to which lights could not be switched on at the mandi yesterday. The problem has been fixed and there is no issue of water supply or soap. We have directed sweepers to clean the mandi.”
However, farmers maintained that they have been sitting at the mandi since Wednesday. On Thursday evening, farmers Jagdish and Jasveer told The Indian Express they had been told that moisture in their stock is between 14-15 per cent, when it should be 12 per cent.
Jasveer said, “I will sit here till it is not sold out.”
There was no light at the mandi till the time of filing this report. This mandi gets around 1 lakh quintal of stock as per the previous year’s record. Market committee secretary M S Dhillon said, “Pargat’s stock has been sold out, the other two farmers have to wait as their moisture content is high.” Pargat, who was still sitting at the mandi, however said, “I was told that it will be auctioned on Friday. Inspector had checked my stock, but don’t know when it was procured.”
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