Explained: How commission agents misuse MSP regime to pocket farmer benefits in Punjab

Wheat procurement has kicked off in Punjab after the commission agents (arhtiyas) known as off their strike on April 10 following an understanding with the Punjab authorities.

Despite the Union authorities’s choice to launch the MSP funds immediately to the financial institution accounts of farmers and bypass the agents, the Congress-ruled Punjab authorities has stored them in the loop by making appropriate modifications in the procurement software program.

The payments may not be routed through the arhtiyas, however they’ll get info that the farmer involved has been paid. All this has been executed to make sure that they recuperate the cash paid in advance to the farmers.

The Union authorities’s stand on MSP funds has compelled the Congress-ruled Punjab authorities to undertake Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), however a six-month exemption to digitise land data and hyperlink the identical to the union procurement portal stays a priority as this has resulted in misuse of the MSP regime.

While the DBT will guarantee transparency in the MSP funds, not updating the land data will proceed to consequence in bogus meals grain procurements from states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh the place wheat is on the market at cheaper charges.

The commission agents have been minting cash by procuring low cost wheat and rice from Bihar and UP to promote the identical at larger costs underneath MSP.

Nearly two dozen vehicles carrying low cost wheat from Bihar have been seized in Bathinda. As per the modus operandi, the commission agents purchase low cost wheat from UP and Bihar, dump the identical in their shops to pocket MSP.

Wheat per quintal is on the market at Rs 1,100 in Bihar and the identical is bought on present MSP (Rs 1,975) in Punjab. Such has been the pattern for many years and reveals how the MSP benefits had been being fraudulently pocketed by the agents.

The commission agents or arhtiyas provide simple financing to the farmers to affect them.

The DBT system has in reality damaged an age-old chain of simple cash lending programs involving larger rates of interest. Farmers had been conscious that they had been paying larger rates of interest however ease of liquidity was extra essential than the curiosity.

A majority of farmers whom we spoke to are in favour of getting funds by the commission agents who provide them loans as and when required.

“We (farmers and agents) are complementary and supplementary to each other. Given a choice, we will still prefer that the payments are made through the commission agents as the banks have a limitation. We can approach the agent any time round the clock who immediately lend money. They personally come and deliver the cash. Borrowing from a commission agent is easy, as it involves no documentation. There is a verbal agreement done on the basis of a mutual trust and relationship. The repayment is voluntary and has no time limit” says Nirpal Singh (62), a Chappar Chiri-based farmer.

Devi Ram of Machhli Kalan village in Mohali district fears that the DBT system will jeopardise the age-old farmer-commission agent relationship. The commission agents have now refused to lend cash after the Punjab authorities adopted DBT.

“The age-old relationship between the farmers and the commission agents is under threat. The farmers used to get paid immediately after they brought the crops to the market. Now we will not get the payment immediately. The dates when the payments will be made are not known. Small farmers will always require money. The commission agents are now refusing to lend even a small amount of Rs 1,000. This is not to say that the nationalised banks are not financing us, they do finance, but mortgage our land,” says Devi Ram.

Two aged farmers, Ujagar Singh and Subedar Jagat Singh, who hail from Magar, Mohali say the funds by the commission agents had been handy. They would get cash as and when required however a brand new system is being adopted, which is able to add to their woes.

“Will the government lend us money like the agents did? Government will give us the cost of the crop and will never lend money,” says Subedar Jagat Singh.

Ujagar Singh says that the DBT system will disturb farmers’ liquidity. He says that the federal government’s choice has irritated the commission agents.

“Farming is no more profitable. The government should cover all crops under MSP. The current MSP is much below the expectation as growing crops is a costly affair,” says Ujagar Singh.

Albeit the MSP fee subject, the farmers had been additionally going through scarcity of gunny luggage at numerous grain markets. Non-availability of packaging materials has resulted in a protracted look forward to the lifting of wheat crop.

“The crop was harvested timely but the rain deficit has impacted the size of the grains besides the damage caused by the recent wind storm . The APMCs do not have the adequate bardana, which is delaying the crop lifting,” says Nirpal Singh, who has been ready for his flip to get his crop lifted on the Kharar grain market over the previous two days.

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