April 25, 2021 10:11:11 am
With 60 per cent of the purchased 7.1 million tonnes of wheat still lying in Punjab’s mandis, labour shortage in grain markets as well as at the unloading points at storage stations has been cited as the major reason for the slow shipping out of the grain from the market.
Till Friday, only 2.8 million tonnes of wheat could be transported out of the mandis while heavy arrival of the crop was continued and 4.3 million tonnes purchased wheat was still lying in the mandis .
During the first wave last year, as procurement happened during lockdown, labour from other sectors had joined the workforce in mandis to make up for the absence of migrant workers.
“But this year there is shortage of labourers in grain markets across the state because less number of migrants came to Punjab because of several reasons and local labourers are not available to us because there is no lockdown. So many workers
who came to mandis last year are busy with their respective work this year,” said Darshan Lal, the president of Khanna Mandi Association, adding that in Khanna mandi that had 15,000 labourers during the wheat season every year, this year has only 10,000-odd.
Labour is required for unloading of farmers’ crops, cleaning, filling, weighing and then loading in trucks to take to government storage places.
“Elections in UP and West Bengal, costly fare, fear of lockdown again led several migrants either to stay back in their home towns or returning midway after surge in Covid cases across the country,” said Lal. He added: “Shortage of workers has slowed down every process which is affecting the lifting process hugely.”
According to Lal, migrants have come in less numbers as this year they mostly dependent on travelling by road which is a costly affair. “During wheat season, even if they are working for Rs 500 daily then their income would be around Rs 7,000 to 10,000. If they have to pay Rs 3,000 to 4,000 on travelling by road then it does not make sense. So many of them preferred to stay in their home state this season,” said another labour union member Banwari Lal in Jalandhar’s grain market which is also jam packed with the wheat crop.
“For last two days I was waiting for unloading of my crop at mandi and when I did not find the place, the arhtiya got is stored his private yard till the time lifting of all the procured wheat does not take place,” said farmer Jagjit Singh at Nurmahal grain market, adding that several farmers are returning with the their trolleys full of grain to their homes to come again after a couple of days because there is no point of waiting endlessly.
“If the purchased wheat is not lifted from mandis the farmers like me who are coming on their turn to mandis will not find a place. I am also waiting to get a proper place to unload my six trolleys but so far I have failed to find a place,” said farmer Jang bahadur from Fatehgarh Sahib at Khanna Mandi.
Even the grain which is being transported out of mandis is also not getting unloaded at the government storage points for 2-3 days at several places. “In Hoshiarpur, the trucks are not being unloaded at storage places and if unloading takes time there then how lifting from mandis can be done quickly as trucks will return after a gap of 2-3 days to mandis,” said Happy Sandhu, president of Truck Operators Union, adding that around 65,000 trucks are engaged in transportation of wheat from mandis to government godowns but due to slow unloading lifting is also very slow.
“Labour shortage is there in majority mandis across the state,” he said.
Gurmukh Singh Malhi, who takes labour and transport tenders in Punjab, said that they are facing around 40 per cent shortage of labour because of which lifting from mandis is slow.
According to government procurement agencies, nearly 40 per cent of the total purchased wheat could be transported from mandis on a daily basis on an average. Director, Department of Food and Civil Supplies Punjab, Ravi Bhagat admitted that there is a labour shortage in the mandis this year.
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