THERE SEEMS to be no end to farmers’ suffering amid the COVID-19 outbreak with many arhtiyas (commission agents) refusing to buy their wheat across several grain markets (mandis) of Haryana on the third day of wheat procurement.
Sources told The Indian Express that wheat could be procured in about 1250 grain markets across the state while the government had announced to set up as many as 2,000 mandis for this purpose this time.
On Tuesday, the wheat was procured at 948 mandis while it was at 780 mandis on Monday. Haryana Additional Chief Secretary Sanjeev Kaushal said 2.57 lakh metric tonnes (MT) was procured on Wednesday as compared to 1.81 lakh MT on Tuesday and a little over than of 94,000 MT on Monday. The government officials say the speed of wheat procurement has improved in past two days.
Fatehabad Grain Market Arhtiyas Association president Subhash Munjal claimed arhtiyas of Fatehabad, Jind, Hisar, some parts of Sirsa and few other mandis were on strike against the e-procurement of wheat. As per this system, wheat of only those farmers who have put the details of their crops on the government web portal ‘Meri Fasal, Mera Byora’ would be procured.
Subhash Bansal, an arhtiya, claimed farmers have put details of only 60-65% wheat area on the web portal. Arhtiyas want to be allowed to procure the entire produce in one go.
Arhtiyas want to pay farmers in cash
But the real issue is the government’s instructions to pay farmers through cheque. The payment of wheat procurement is made to farmers through arhtiyas if the food grains are procured for government agencies. The arhtiyas want that they be allowed to pay in cash. This system was being followed for decades.
Government officials say the new system is aimed at bringing in more transparency in payment to farmers. Farmers have been taking advance and loan from arhtiyas for their domestic and agriculture activities. The arhtiyas have been deducting their advance money during procurement. “If we pay in cash, it’s easier for us to deduct our loan amount from farmers payment. But with the new system of cheques, the money will go to the bank account of farmers directly. Then it would be difficult for us to recover our loan amount from the farmers,” said an arhtiya. In this scenario, arhtiyas have demanded restoration of cash payment like the previous years. They also want e-procurement to be deferred at least for one year more.
Where the protests happened
The arhtiyas staged protest in Fatehabad town on Tuesday, \raising slogans against the government and beating iron boxes. Senior INLD leader Abhay Chautala also visited grain markets on Tuesday to interact with the farmers whose crop could not be purchased because of strike.
Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav said, “We have received reports that the wheat is not being procured at many mandis. The ultimate suffers are farmers. If the situation does not improve, the government should itself step in to procure the wheat from all mandis and the commission amount of arhtiyas should be given to the farmers.”
Farmers’ dilemma over ‘indecisive Centre’
The Haryana government had proposed an incentive of Rs 125 per quintal to those farmers who may delay sale of their wheat till June. The state had written to the Centre in March, seeking its approval. When contacted on Tuesday, state Additional Chief Secretary PK Das confirmed that the state has not received any approval from the Centre till now. In the absence of the Centre’s decision, the farmers are in a dilemma’ as to whether to store their wheat at their homes or not. “The central government should end its indecisiveness to bring clarity into the matter,” said activist Balbir Singh.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines