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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Explained: What is the standoff between Delhi govt and FCI over wheat procurement?

Earlier this week, senior AAP politician and Delhi agriculture minister Gopal Rai alleged that the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has not set up any purchasing counters in the capital to buy wheat on MSP from farmers.

Written by Shivam Patel | New Delhi |
Updated: April 11, 2021 11:57:26 am
A farmer looks at his wheat crops in Ludhiana (Express photo/Gurmeet Singh)

As wheat begins arriving in Delhi’s mandis, apprehensions over non-provision of minimum support price (MSP) has been raised by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Earlier this week, senior AAP politician and Delhi agriculture minister Gopal Rai alleged that the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has not set up any purchasing counters in the capital to buy wheat on MSP from farmers.

His claims were countered by FCI’s Delhi region general manager Sudhir Kumar a day later when he said three purchase centres have been set up at Najafgarh mandi, and at food storage depots at Narela and Mayapuri since April 1.

What is the agricultural area in Delhi?

As per the 2020-21 Economic Survey of Delhi, the estimated gross cropped area has increased to 43,569 hectares from 36,445 hectares in 2011-12. Out of this, wheat was grown in an area of 19,220 hectares.

Agricultural land is mostly spread in villages in the outer regions of the capital, away from the centre. Many villages have been urbanised over the years, with the 2011 census finding that around 25 per cent of the total area of Delhi was rural and 75 per cent was urban.

Out of a total of 357 villages, at least 174 have been declared ‘urban’ over the last two years by Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal by invoking Section 507 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation (DMC) Act 1957, for development purposes.

What are Delhi government’s allegations?

The Delhi government wants the FCI to open purchase centres in mandis where farmers bring their produce. Agriculture minister Gopal Rai inspected the Narela mandi on Friday and said he had not found any FCI purchase centre there.

A statement from his office quoted the minister as saying, “FCI claimed that they set up a counter, but our visit reveals something else. Some of their officers had said that counters had been set up in the godown. However, even over there, no purchases were being done…”

Rai added, “Farmers should come to the mandi for their produce to be certified, and it is from the mandi that their produce must be purchased, just as it is done in all other places.”

What do the farmers say?

Farmers claim that their purchase is bought below the MSP rate by traders. Some also state that they are unable to sell produce to the FCI because they do not have the girdawari document.

Many farmers, including the Bharatiya Kisan Union’s (BKU) Delhi unit president, have alleged that crops have not been purchased on MSP at Najafgarh and Narela mandis since 2015.

Total wheat procurement in past years

Data from the FCI shows that it procured 180 quintals of wheat at MSP rate from farmers in Delhi in 2013-14, against total production of over 8.48 lakh quintal that year. In the following year there was no procurement by the FCI, but production was 7.63 lakh quintal.

In 2015-16, the production was again 7.63 lakh quintal and procurement by FCI was 17,870 quintal. The next procurement by FCI was done in 2020-21, of 276.5 quintal against production of 8.25 lakh quintal.

So far this year from April 1, the FCI claims it has procured about 33.88 metric tonne of wheat, or 338.8 quintal, from Delhi farmers at MSP rate.

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FCI replies

In response to a query by a farmer, the FCI’s Delhi unit said in a letter on January 12 that farmers prefer to sell their wheat produce to private traders instead of bringing it to FCI procurement centres, which are set up every year at Najafgarh and Narela mandis, and the food storage depot at Mayapuri.

“Wheat and dhan (paddy) of Delhi region is generally of good quality and is bought by traders at or above the MSP,” FCI’s additional general manager (AGM) of quality control from Delhi unit said in the letter.

This was, however, denied by farmers and heads of Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) at Narela and Najafgarh, who said crops are always bought below the MSP rates by traders.

Kumar, FCI’s Delhi region general manager, said in a statement on Friday, after minister Rai’s visit to Narela mandi, “Food storage depot Narela is adjacent to Narela mandi, hardly few meters away from its main gate, and offers a more appropriate place for procurement for farmers as well as FCI.”

Kumar also said that cutouts and banners have been placed at Najafgarh mandi, and at Narela and Mayapuri depots, inviting farmers to sell their produce at MSP rates.

He also said that due to non-implementation of an online portal for procurement purposes, it was mutually decided by the FCI and the Delhi joint director of agriculture that procurement will be carried out on the basis of physical documents, including the girdawari document.

“But due to the discontinuation of issuance of girdawari by Delhi government, it was mutually decided that farmers will produce a certificate issued by competent state authority mentioning about land details, agricultural produce along with the production,” Kumar said in a statement.

What is girdawari and why has it been discontinued?

Girdawari is a document issued by the revenue department that contains details of the land, its owner, the type of crop grown there and the total production that year. The document is required by the FCI to verify the identity of farmers and to remove middlemen and traders from the procurement process.

The urbanisation of Delhi’s villages by invoking Section 507 of the DMC act has resulted in farmers not being issued the girdawari document for at least two years, as per Delhi revenue department officials.

After Section 507 is invoked, Delhi’s two revenue laws which govern the girdawari process — the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954, and the Delhi Land Revenue Act, 1954 — do not apply to the area.

In the absence of girdawari, farmers have no option but to sell their produce to traders. However, after meeting FCI officials on Saturday, minister Gopal Rai said farmers can bring their Aadhar Card and land documents to the mandis to register at FCI counters.

He said joint counters of the Delhi agriculture department and the FCI will open at Narela mandi Monday onwards, where farmers can register themselves. They will be issued coupons stating the time and date they are required to bring their produce to Narela depot to sell it to the FCI.

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