October 7, 2021 6:26:35 am
With Centre deciding to cap paddy procurement from Punjab at 170 lakh tonnes (17 million tonnes), the state government is working overtime to stop illegal influx of milled rice (non-basmati) from other states.
By setting a cap, the Union government has made it clear that it will not bear any responsibility for extra paddy arriving at the mandis. Paddy from other states makes its way to Punjab every year with sellers raising bogus bill to get the produce procured at minimum selling price (MSP). If the trend continues this year, then Punjab farmers may have to bear the brunt as their crop will not be picked up for central pool at MSP rates.
Civil Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu has even urged farmers to support the government in checking illegal inflow of paddy. Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa too has asked all the district police chiefs to deploy more force on the borders to keep a strict vigil.
Sources said that paddy at Rs 1,200 to 1,400 per quintal is being purchased by big traders from farmers of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to sell it in Punjab mandis where government agencies are purchasing it at Rs 1,960 per quintal – the MSP fixed by Centre.
The Centre had earlier rejected revised estimate of 190 lakh tonnes (19 million tonnes) of paddy for procurement sent by Punjab government. The state had cited an expected bumper crop and high yield this year for the revised estimates.
In September, the state Punjab government had asked the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for a cash credit limit (CCL) of ?42,000 crore for paddy procurement stating that it was expecting arrival of 190 lakh tonnes of produce in the mandis.
The CCL is decided every cropping season as per the estimates taken on the basis of the average productivity per hectare and the area under the crop in the state.
According to the estimates of Punjab Agriculture Department, around 30.66 lakh hectares is under rice crop including basmati (4.61 lakh hectares) and paddy (26.05 lakh hectares). Only paddy is procured at the MSP by the Centre.
Last year Punjab had recorded an yield of 6,631 kg (6.6 tonne) paddy per hectare, which was highest ever in state’s recorded history. The state is expecting a similar yield this year too.
Also, the state last year had witnessed an arrival of 203 lakh tonnes of paddy in mandis, which was an all time high, mostly owing to the crop being sown in 27.43 lakh hectares, which was nearly 1.38 lakh hectares more than this year.
The farmer unions, meanwhile, say that huge amount of paddy continues to arrive in Punjab every year.
“Government only files 10-20 FIRs in every season against such ingress to show that action is being taken but in reality huge inflow of the paddy takes place,” said Jagmohan Singh, general secretary, Bharti Kisan Union (Dakaunda).
He said that some 200 trucks carrying paddy from other states being confiscated is just the tip of an iceberg of this larger illegal trade.
A senior officer in Punjab Food and Civil Supplies department said that big fish, including some legislators of the ruling and opposition parties, are involved in this illegal trade.
“Everyone in the department knows how such bigwigs are making millions of rupees in just a single season by bringing paddy at cheap rate from outside and selling it at MSP rate here,” said a senior officer.
Minister Ashu said that they are confiscating the “imported rice” from other states daily and flying squads have been constituted in every district to check this illegal inflow.
On the revised CCL, he said that the Centre has estimated 170 lakh tonnes paddy on the basis of 2019-20 Kharif season. He said the agriculture department has informed Centre that bumper crop is expected and the state has accordingly sent revised figures to release CCL as per the revised estimates of 190 lakh tonnes paddy.
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