October 23, 2020 2:34:00 pm
For the last five days, Aman Rana and his father have been camping at the Barwala Mandi in shifts, taking responsibility of protecting their 350 quintals of paddy harvest as they await for their cellphone to beep with a message, informing them of the date when government procurement agencies will pick up their produce.
Rana had registered online, via the e-Khareed (Haryana) in the last week of September, to sell his produce. He had received a confirmatory message but is yet to receive the another one with the pickup date.
Even though the Panchkula district administration claims of having procured 90 per cent of the harvest, numbers accessed from the Haryana State Agricultural marketing Board show a gap of at least 20 per cent exists between the total harvest registered online and the amount procured by the government.
While 7,252 paddy farmers of Panchkula have registered 32,736 acres of land via the portal, which roughly amounts to a pick-up of approximately 10 lakh quintals of paddy, the district authorities have procured only about 8.3 lakh quintals as on Thursday.
The total procurement last year at this time stood at more than 10.27 lakh quintals.
Meanwhile, the state is yet to make payments to those who have been lucky enough to get their produce picked up by the government. As per an official of the state agricultural marketing board, “No payments have yet been made to any farmers in Panchkula. Only some amount was released to the Panchkula market committee till October 3. We do not know what is causing the delay in payments, such decisions are made at government levels,” he said. The HAFED is said to have released only Rs 5.75 crore, which is yet to be credited into the accounts of the farmers.
While the introduction of self-dependence through websites has been a welcome move, farmers are still trying to cope with the new methods. All villages, which have mandis now have at least one dedicated cyber cafe, which is being used by farmers solely to register their produce on the government website.
PK Das, Additional Chief Secretary for Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, bats for the online system. “It has three components. The very first is registration by farmers that informs us of the crop he has planted and its acreage.
We verify it to ensure that he has actually cultivated what he is claiming. Then we schedule the farmer to come to a mandi on a particular date. Earlier, farmers would swamp the mandis and it used to take them days to sell their produce. Now that we know how many farmers are being called to mandi, the logistics preparation to meet the arrival is completed beforehand. At the mandi, the procurement itself is done via an e platform. Starting from gate-pass to auction and the dispatch to warehouses, everything is done through e-khareed, which is accessible to the procuring agency, marketing committee and procuring agent handling the farmer’s produce,” he said.
The farmers, however, are not impressed.
“The manual system was much easier. You harvest your produce as and when you deem fit, take it to the mandi and sell it off. The arhtiya (commission agent) would pay you then and there without any hassle of waiting around for the payments to come from the government. With the current regime, where dates are given to you in advance, farmers have been all the more burdened. Sometimes the machine you rent out for cutting the crops is unavailable, other times you miss the deadline as you are out of town among other reasons. This timeline has created troubles no one has solutions to. Moreover, even after giving out the produce to the government, farmers have not got a single rupee credited to their accounts,” says Narinder Singh, pradhan of farmers from Barwala area of Panchkula.
This gap between state farmers and an online governance has created much hassle for those awaiting payment for their crops. Ramesh Chand, owning almost 20 acres of land in village Parvala of Raipurrani had handed over his produce at the Raipurrani mandi almost three weeks back but is yet to receive his due payment. In the meantime, the farmer has had to take money on loan to sow the next produce. “I had waited for payment for almost a week before taking it on loan from an arhtiya. I do not have any options. I would have lost precious time in sowing potatoes. I am still waiting for the government to pay for my produce,” Chand said.
The delay comes despite assurances from the Centre regarding the payment of produce within three days of procurement.
The slow procurement is another factor that has left the farmers of the area dejected. Om Prakash (58), a farmer who hails from Batour village of Barwala has been sitting at the mandi for more than a week now. “I was initially told that moisture content in the produce was too high. It took me three to four days to dry it off. Since then, I have been sitting here. The arhtiya tells me that there is some issue in the registration of crops since the internet is distributing only limited number of parchis (slips).”
Das makes it clear that “registration does not mean that whenever you turn up, you will get a gatepass”. The senior officer said that registration has to be followed by scheduling and thus depending on the capacity of mandi, farmers are invited on particular days through SMS. “Only those farmers are supposed to go to mandi. When they reach mandi, they are issued default gate pass at the gate. If somebody turns up without invitation and we entertain them, then everybody else would start reaching mandis without following the schedule, defeating the whole purpose,” he added.
On delay in payments, he said that the the government had promised to clear the dues within three days of the approval of the i-form or the purchase document. “The purchase form gets approved within four days from the date of purchase. So, by the seventh day, we make the payments. We have already cleared dues upto October 10”, he said.
Das accepted that the government is running late by a few days in clearing the dues, but added that “we have also promised the farmer, that we will pay interest for the days the payment is delayed”.
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