With the new farm acts coming into play allowing deregulated trade outside mandi premises in private trade area, Madhya Pradesh has recorded five instances of non-payment of dues of which three were resolved by the sub-divisional magistrates by forming a joint committee and summoning the concerned parties, while traders are absconding in two other cases, leaving the farmers in lurch and prompting the authorities to proceed with seizure of properties.
This comes at a time when the mandis are registering a decline both in their business as well as incomes because many traders have moved out of regulated mandi premises to procure grains from farmers in a private setup. Traders coming to APMC mandis dropped by 20.65 per cent in November with six of the seven divisions recording a drop in business. Ujjain’s APMC mandi was an exception recording a 24.49 per cent increase in business. The overall revenue generated by the 259 mandis in MP dropped by 4.48 percent in November compared with November last year.
To ensure effective implementation of the farm laws, soon after it was enforced, a webinar was organised for the district administration staff at the tehsil level, Principal Secretary (Agriculture) Ajit Kesari told The Indian Express. “To help bring down such instances” of non-payment, two officials have been assigned to keep a tab of the sale in the private trade area outside mandi premises so any such case is subsequently brought to the SDM’s notice, he said. “The farmers are familiar with mandi officials and these issues of non-payment of dues would easily come to their notice as farmers frequent the mandis more than the SDM’s office.”
The earliest complaint of non-payment was recorded on October 10 in Barwani district, when the SDM of Panselum tehsil was approached by a farmer from Maharashtra’s Dhule district who had sold 270 quintals of maize to two traders from Panselum in July and was waiting for repayment of dues amounting to nearly Rs 3.30 lakh. SDM (Barwani) Sumer Singh Mujalde said, “While the trade had not happened in our jurisdiction, the traders lived in our tehsil, and hence we formed a committee and the traders were summoned.” The traders cleared the dues in two installments, and the matter was resolved on November 4 when the farmer gave a written application to the SDM that no payment was due.
In Hoshangabad, a Delhi-based firm identified as Fortune Company entered into an agreement with rice farmers in Pipariya district to buy their produce at Rs 50 higher than the rate offered in the mandi. But as the prices soared and touched Rs 2,950, the firm’s agents switched off their phones with the date of purchase approaching. SDM Pipariya Nitin Tale said a joint committee was informed after a complaint from farmers. “The (firm’s) director… came over and ensured that all the produce of the farmers is purchased after a summon was issued to him.”
In Jabalpur, a routine inspection on December 5 found a trader in possession of 17 quintals of paddy amid procurement being carried out on MSP, and further enquiry revealed he had purchased the rice from three farmers nearby, without giving them either the promised Rs 22 lakh or any receipt for purchase. SDM (Patan) Ashish Pandey said, “We ensured that the farmers were given their dues within the next 24 hours. While these farmers who had registered themselves for MSP, their registration was cancelled as they had already sold their produce to the trader.”
However, farmers in Gwalior and Balaghat are struggling for payment of dues with the SDMs approaching the police to trace the absconding traders and seize their property.
In Balaghat, a group of paddy farmers approached the police in Lanchi tehsil and said a rice mill owner is yet to clear their dues. The SDM had formed a panel to resolve the issue on December 13 but with the traders absconding, the process to seize property is now underway.
In Gwalior, 24 farmers wrote to the SDM about non-payment of Rs 10 lakh by a middleman who lived in their village, Bajna, but left the area along with his family and remains untraceable. An FIR was filed and the district administration is in the process of seizing the trader’s house. The police have also begun a search of his property in Ahmedabad.
SDM of Bhitarwar tehsil, Ashwini Rawat, said, “As we began seizing his properties, while the trader himself is absconding, he has transferred some amount to a few farmers but we will ensure all their dues are paid.”