Chandigarh, (Raftaar News Bureau):
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday directed all procurement agencies to ensure prompt lifting and timely payment to farmers through the newly introduced Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) system during the ongoing Rabi Marketing Season (RMS) 2021-22.
Reviewing the wheat procurement progress at a virtual meeting with his Cabinet, the Chief Minister also ordered strict adherence to the Covid protocols amid the current surge. He urged all those farmers, arhtiyas, labourers, employees of procurements agencies and other stakeholders, above the age of 45, visiting the grain markets to get themselves vaccinated at the Covid vaccination camps in all 154 market committees across the state.
On inquiring about the availability of gunny bags, the Chief Minister was informed by Principal Secretary, Food, Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs, KAP Sinha that the issue had been sorted out and there was no shortage. Some instances of shortage were reported earlier from some Mandis as the Department of Food & Public Distribution, Government of India, had allocated fewer bales in contrast to the requirement of the State agencies and early arrivals had pushed up demand, he said. However, after the permission for use of good quality used bags arranged by the arthiyas was obtained from the GOI on April 18, 2021, there has been no shortage of bags and as of now, 19.19 crore gunny bags have already been used for packaging of wheat, the meeting was informed. Further, around 30 lakh new bags, both HDPE/PP as well as jute, are being received every day by the agencies and are also being supplied directly in the grain markets across the state, said Sinha.
The Chief Minister expressed satisfaction at the smooth procurement amid the challenges faced by the state due to the ongoing farmers; agitation against the farm laws passed by the Centre, the initial hostility of the arthiyas towards the DBT, scarcity of labour, shortage of bales, as well as heavy and quick early arrivals, along with the surge in Covid cases in the state. He congratulated Food Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu for the smooth operations.
The procurement of wheat commenced in the state on April 10, 2021, and in a span of just 18 days, 98 LMT wheat has arrived in the mandis, of which 95.97 LMT wheat has already been procured till date. Further, 70% of the stock due to be lifted in 72 hours, has been lifted from the mandis., while 90 % of the due payment of MSP, i.e. Rs.14,958 crore has been cleared by the department directly into the bank accounts of nearly 5 lakh farmers.
The Food & Civil Supplies department informed the Cabinet that the number of mandis has been increased from 1872 to 3510 and 1638 additional/temporary mandis have been set up in the state to stagger procurement to curb the spread of ongoing second wave of Covid 19 pandemic. Further, 30×30 ft boxes have been marked in the mandi yards for unloading of heaps to ensure social distancing
The Cabinet was also informed that the Punjab Mandi Board had set up ‘farmers help desks’ in the grain markets across the state, where IT professionals along with Board officials were assisting the farmers in their registration on the Anaaj Kharid portal to ensure timely payment directly into their bank accounts under the DBT scheme. It was also informed that till earlier seasons, the Department of Food transferred the payments into the bank accounts of nearly 22,000 arthiyas (commission agents) for making further payments to the farmers. However, from the current procurement season with the introduction of the DBT scheme, the payments are now being directly transferred by the procurement agencies into the bank accounts of the farmers, which are numbering approx. 10 lakh.