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Arhtiyas end stir, wheat procurement begins in Punjab

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, on his part, said the state would immediately release Rs 131 crore to the arhtiyas pending for over 18 months without waiting for the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to release funds.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana |
Updated: April 11, 2021 7:29:57 am
A grain market in Ludhiana as wheat procurement began on Saturday. (Photo: Gurmeet Singh)

Procurement of wheat crop commenced in Punjab after arhtiyas called off their strike and agreed to DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) of the MSP into farmers’ accounts.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, on his part, said the state would immediately release Rs 131 crore to the arhtiyas pending for over 18 months without waiting for the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to release funds.

The FCI had withheld the dues since many arhtiyas had not fed farmer details on the Punjab Financial Management Service Portal.

Interacting with arhtiyas through video conferencing Saturday, Amarinder Singh said despite the Centre’s directive to exclude them (arhtiyas) from MSP payments, they “shall always be associated with procurement”.

“Till I am there, you will be part of the system,” he said, adding he will ensure that the arhtiya commission and other charges permitted under the APMC Act continue.

Meanwhile, in yet another arrangement, the state government also told arhtiyas it will send an SMS alert to them along with farmers after money is transferred into farmers’ bank accounts.

H S Rosha, former president of Khanna Ahrtiya Federation, said, “This alert will help us in keeping our relationship (give-and-take) with farmers. With no option but to opt for DBT, this alert will keep our system running.” Earlier, an arhtiya received the money for the crop, deducted his instalment, and then transferred the funds to the farmers.

The CM also assured arhtiyas that his government will take up with Centre the issue of 30 per cent deduction in labour payments made by the FCI.

The interaction between CM and arhtiyas happened over video call during their meeting with Punjab Food Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu in Ludhiana’s Bachat Bhawan.

Though ahrtiyas had announced the strike on Friday protesting DBT, farmers had started bringing crop to the mandis in the night and morning hours on Saturday.

It came in 349 out of the total 4,000 purchase centres. The first purchase was done from Rajpura where Cabinet Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu started the procurement drive.

“On day one of procurement drive, 28,807 metric tonnes (MT) of wheat arrived in Punjab mandis of which only 2,642 MT was purchased by the government purchase agencies,” said Ravi Bhagat, secretary, Punjab Mandi Board.

However neither any lifting nor any payment was done on day one. At majority purchase centres, commission agents stated that they will start the process from Sunday or Monday.

Meanwhile, DBT will be done in the account of the farmer who is farming on land whether a contract farmer or the land owner himself, said a Mandi Board Official, claiming that as of now the issue of submitting land records with Food Corporation of India has been postponed.

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