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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Providing land records to FCI may deprive lakhs of farmers from getting MSP payment in time, or never

There are around 10.93 lakh operational land holdings in Punjab as per the agricultural census 2015-16. But this does not mean that the number of agricultural land owners is also the same.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba |
Updated: March 21, 2021 10:30:46 am
A farmer is ready to plow his field after burning the stubble, near Sirhind road in Patiala. (Express Photo: Harmeet Sodhi, File)

The Food Corporation of India (FCI) recently wrote to the director of food, civil supplies and consumer affairs seeking land records of farmers so as to make direct online payment of Minimum Support Price (MSP) to their bank accounts from the upcoming Rabi marketing season (RMS). It also requested to share data of land records and convey to the FCI office where to find it so that FCI shall verify land records of farmers during RMS 2021-22 with regard to FCI’s own purchase.

However, this new proposed practice seems impractical at the moment and may deprive a large number of farmers of timely MSP payments or they may not get it at all. The Indian Express explains.

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How many farmers in Punjab have agricultural land in their name?

There are around 10.93 lakh operational land holdings in Punjab as per the agricultural census 2015-16. But this does not mean that the number of agricultural land owners is also the same. The number of owners are more because in several cases, a single piece of land has many shareholders. “According to records, there are around 16 lakh farmer land owners in Punjab and around 9.50 lakh cultivators,” said Jagmohan Singh, General Secretary Bharti Kisan Union (Dakuanda).

What is the hindrance in providing land records of these 16 lakh farmers then?

There is no hindrance in providing, land records, but the main problem is that all these 16 lakh farm land owners are not cultivating their respective lands and providing their bank accounts would not serve the purpose of making MSP payment which should go to the real cultivator of that land. As around 45-50 per cent owners have given their lands on lease and charging annual rent for that and the persons who are cultivating that land are the cultivators, who do not own that land, while doing farming on it for decades. “How will the government ensure payment to the cultivators?” asked Jagmohan.

“Currently farmers (owners) and cultivators are getting payment through arhtiyas and in this system they will get payment through their landlord who is sitting in the USA and Canada. There is hardly anything in written in majority of land leasing cases and the name of the cultivator is hardly mentioned anywhere as everything goes on in good faith,” said Principal Economist (Agriculture Marketing) Punjab Agriculture University (PAU) Ludhiana Professor Sukhpal Singh, adding that both landless farmers and small and marginal farmers also take land on rent for cultivation.

What do revenue rules say?

“According to the Punjab Land Revenue Act, the owner of the land is mentioned as khud kashtkar (self-cultivator) whether he is cultivating that land or not,” said Jagmohan, demanding that government make a law to safeguard the interests of both cultivator and land owner, and that the government should mention the name of cultivators in some records.

How would the cultivators be deprived from getting MSP if the new proposal is implemented?

Earlier too, this category (cultivators or landless) of farmers was deprived of benefits of several government schemes including subsidies or direct benefit schemes. The amount of these benefits is credited in the account of the farmer who owns that land. And there are very few farmer owners who further give those benefits to the tenant or cultivator farmers of their land.

Most of the time, the owner says that he/she will adjust it in the annual rent of the land and this way also they get delayed benefits after a year.

“The same will happen here, when a person is cultivating a land, naturally he/she will sell crop in the mandi and he/she has the right to get the MSP against sold crop but as per the new direction, the money will go in the account of the owner of the land, who has nothing to do with cultivation but only with his/her annual rent,” said Jagmohan, adding that now in such a case, when the land records of the owner will be provided, who will ensure that the cultivator will get his/her money on time from the land owner, who will get money in their account as per FCI’s condition, and sometimes a cultivator takes land on lease from multiple landlords, which will complicate the matter further and he/she will be dependent on the owner of the land for payment of the MSP.

“The government should calculate the total land under the crop in the state and make the payment to the state government, which will further make it to the farmers/cultivators. For the past several years, the land under wheat is more or less the same and there is also not much difference in the productivity. The government should calculate on that basis rather than asking for land records of individual farmers,” said Prof. Sukhpal, adding that such documentation will create inefficiency in the marketing process and will hit the income of the actual cultivators.

He also said that such measures of the government are nothing but attempts to run away from procurement in a phased manner, while MSP and public procurement should be the right of every farmer/cultivator.

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