Jasbir Saini shows a message on his iBall mobile phone displaying an amount of Rs 296 credited to his bank account. That’s what the 47-year-old has received as “differential price” on the distress sale of his tomato crop under the Haryana government’s Bhavantar Bharpayee Yojana (BBY) scheme.
“This is a cruel joke. What use is such a scheme if this is all it pays?,” remarks Saini, who, in May-June, harvested around 375 quintals of tomatoes from three out of his ten-acre holding at Chapra village in Shahbad tehsil of Kurukshetra district. “I could get the J-form (for being eligible to receive BBY payments) only on a third of my crop sold at the Shahbad APMC (agricultural produce market committee) mandi. Sometimes, they wouldn’t issue any gate pass (proof of his entry and sale at the mandi) and, at other times, the website (of Haryana State Agricultural Marketing Board or HSAMB) did not work,” he adds.
In all, Saini got Rs 2,099 of payment under BBY on a total quantity of 125 quintals sold against J-forms, translating into a price difference of just 17 paise per kg.
Official figures accessed by The Indian Express reveal that only 565 tomato growers across Haryana have benefitted from BBY, which was operational from April 1 to June 15. Together, they have received differential price payments of Rs 12.07 lakh, working out to Rs 2,136 per farmer. While tomato cultivation area in Haryana this season was 44,137 acres according to the state horticulture department, just 5,004 acres cultivated by 4,435 farmers got registered under the scheme. And the benefits, too, flowed to a mere 565 growers. Mange Ram of Bhagwanpur and Rajender Saini of Tatka — both villages in Kurukshetra district’s Thanesar tehsil — are among those not to have got any payment, despite selling their crop by the June 15 deadline.
Under BBY — for which a provision of Rs 5 crore was made in 2017-18 (for January-March, when it took off) and Rs 25 crore in the current fiscal — the Haryana government ensures a minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 4 per kg for tomatoes. Thus, if a registered farmer were to realise a rate of Rs 2/kg at the mandi, he should technically be entitled to an equal price difference for that particular quantity of sale.
However, Dharambir Singh, Member of Parliament from the Bhiwani-Mahendragarh Lok Sabha constituency, claims that the “market rate”, based on which BBY payments were made in the recent season, was arbitrarily set at Rs 3.90 per kg. “So, even farmers who managed to register and sell under the scheme got a paltry 10 paise per kg,” alleges this leader, who is incidentally from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
When contacted, an HSAMB official denied that any fixed average market rate had been arrived at in order to calculate the price difference. “We took the prices in 30 APMC mandis (out of state’s total 108) where tomatoes were sold. The average price across the 30 mandis for any particular day is what was, then, worked out. Even if a farmer on that day would have sold at his mandi for Re 1/kg, when the average across all mandis was Rs 4, he wouldn’t be eligible for the price difference. We found the average rates for tomatoes to have ranged from Rs 2.8 to Rs 9.5 per kg on different days of this season,” he explains.
But Mange Ram, the Dalit farmer from Bhagwanpur who hasn’t got any payment for his one-acre tomato produce sold in the Panipat APMC at Rs 1.25/kg, does not buy this logic. “What do they mean by average price? Shouldn’t they pay me on the price at which I actually sold?” he points out.
Rajinder Kumar, who is from Tatka, complains that the arhatiya (commission agent) at Panipat gave the J-form only on 300 out of his 1,200 crates (25 kg each) produce. The balance 900 crates he had to sell in Delhi at Rs 3/kg. After incurring transport and labour charges, his net realisation there was Rs 1.50/kg. “Tamatar ne toh hamein ragad diya (the tomato crop has ruined us),” he states. His fellow villager, Devi Dayal, couldn’t even register under the scheme: “When I approached the (HSAMB) people, they told me that the time is over”.
Gurnam Singh Chaduni, Haryana unit president of the Bhartiya Kisan Union, feels that BBY is a well-intended scheme, but poorly implemented. Many farmers aren’t computer-savvy enough to get themselves registered in the first place. “They should simplify the process. A farmer should be able to register himself through mobile via an SMS or a missed call. The other relevant details can be collected by officials later on,” he notes.
Arjun Singh Saini, director-general of Haryana’s horticulture department, admits that the scheme has scope for improvement. “We plan to introduce a mobile app for farmers to register themselves. Also, we are proposing a mechanism of calculating market prices for different regions or zones, as opposed to a single average for the entire state,” he says.
BBY, modelled on the Madhya Pradesh government’s Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana, was launched with effect from January 1 as an MSP scheme for four vegetable crops: tomato, onion, potato and cauliflower. The MSP in this case, unlike for other crops, is meant to cover only input costs and not provide any margins a la the Swaminathan formula. By enabling recovery of basic production cost, the scheme intends to prevent farmers from throwing their vegetable produce on roads in the event of price crash. But it seems to have failed spectacularly even on that count.