Only sixteen farmers made it to the grain market in Fatehabad’s Gorakhpur village on first day of wheat procurement in Haryana on Monday. But even then not a single grain could be procured here due to a strike by arhtiyas (commission agents) against the e-procurement system. Wheat procurement in the entire state got off to a slow start thanks to this strike, state officials admitted.
While Haryana this time has set up total 2,000 procurement centres against 477 last year, a senior state government official told The Indian Express that procurement could take place at only 780 centres on Monday. According to the state government, 9,729 farmers reported at different procurement centres on the first day and 94,264.78 metric tonnes of wheat was purchased.
Haryana Anaj Mandi Arhtiyas Association treasurer Bittu Kalra said that arhtiyas of Haryana’s bordering districts like Fatehabad, Hisar, Sirsa and Jind remained on strike opposing e-procurement.
These arhtiyas are up in arms against e-procurement which allows procurement of only those farmers’ produce who have got their crop details registered on a government portal. The arhtiyas are not happy with e-procurement because they can’t procure entire crop of the farmer in one go. They are opposing certain other conditions too.
“I was allowed to bring only 50 quintal of wheat today out of expected production of 400 quintal in my 20 acres of land. By this speed, I will be able to sell my entire crop in next two months,” says Jitender Jaildar, a farmer from Gorakhpur village.
“I reached the mandi at 8 am but not even a single grain could be purchased till late in the evening because of strike by the arhtiyas. We don’t have any option but to keep our crop in the open at the mandi till the arhtiyas resume work,” said Jaildar, while pointing out the inclement weather that threatens the harvested crop.
Coordination gaps amid lockdown curbs
Strict lockdown restrictions, coordination gaps between farmers and administration also played a spoilsport on the first procurement day.
Farmer Sandeep Singh said he was asked to bring only 40 quintal of wheat on Monday. “I am estimating 100 quintal produce in my field of five acres,” he said.
Sources said that only 16 farmers came to the Gorakhpur grain market out of 45 who were called as lot of those who were asked to come Monday are yet to harvest their crop.
“Out of 3,000 farmers, only 16 farmers have come here today. By this speed, the procurement will conclude in three months,” says Subhash Bansal, an arhtiya in the mandi.
Another arhtiya Suresh Bansal added, “Today, the government had allowed procurement of only 1,700 quintal wheat while in previous years, the procurement of as much as 10,000 quintal has been taking place in our mandi.”
Officials also claimed the procurement could not take place in many newly set up centres because the arhtiyas did not want to travel the distance. “Labour crunch is another factor,” said an official.
Haryana State Agricultural Marketing Board’s Chief Markeing Enforcement Officer, Raj Kumar Beniwal, told The Indian Express that there will be no limit of wheat which can be brought by a farmer from Tuesday. “We will also ensure on the spot registration for those farmers who could not get registered on the ‘meri fasal, mera byora’ website till now,” Beniwal said.
Rethink on e-procurement unlikely
State officials indicated that e-procurement will not be deferred as per demand of the arhtiyas. “We have been working on this system for the past four years, but it could not be implemented till now. Last year, it was deferred because of the elections,” said an official. Officials claimed that it was an attempt to give priority to state’s farmers in the procurement process.
But some farmers too find the new system to their disadvantage. “For all these years, we just brought our tractor-trolleys loaded with the wheat to mandi and that was it,” said Rajbir Singh, a farmer.
Inquiries by The Indian Express revealed that large number of farmers could not get their entire agriculture fields registered on the web portal because a part of their land is in the name of daughters in the family who have been married, while their brothers now cultivate the land.
Meanwhile, Bhartiya Kisan Union Gurnam Singh Chaduni has urged the government to resolve the issues soon by holding talks with the farmers.
Opposition hits out
Senior Congress leaders Randeep Singh Surjewala and Kumari Selja Monday hit out at the Haryana government saying “there was chaos in the wheat procurement centres all across the state”.
While addressing media persons via video conferencing, Surjewala said, “The farmers of the state are suffering due to the mismanagement and carelessness of the government.”
Haryana Congress chief Kumari Selja said, “The crop of farmers is not being procured at one go and a farmer will have to be called again and again. Due to this, farmers will suffer a lot.”