Arhtiyas condemn probe into paddy purchase, mkt closure

Even as the food and supplies department has written to the vigilance bureau to probe the high quantity of paddy procurement on Diwali day, the arhtiyas (commission agents) claimed that the decision of the state government to close down 510 purchase centres had led to panic sales.

On Tuesday, BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) held a protest in Sangrur. The activists of the farmer body blocked the Chandigarh highway and demanded that paddy procurement should continue at all the grain markets.

They claimed that about 20% of the farmers’ stocks were still lying in the grain markets closed by the state government.

Ravinder Singh Cheema, president of the Punjab Arhtiyas Association, termed the move to shut down purchase centres even as paddy harvesting was still not complete in all the areas as “impractical”. It led to a rush among the arhtiyas to upload stock details on the procurement portal on Diwali, he said.

“The decision of early closure is not based on ground reality. Large stocks of paddy are still lying in the purchase centres. The vigilance teams have been conducting verification of stocks. Such raids give unnecessary fodder to the Centre and bring a bad name to the state’s farmers,” said Cheema.

“The suspicion that stocks from neighbouring states are being sold in Punjab is incorrect. As per the new guidelines, farmers’ paddy is purchased based on mapping of agricultural land. The per-acre yield of paddy in Punjab is actually more this time, even though the rate of arrivals has been slower,” he added.

Suspecting bogus purchase of 4.7 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) of paddy on Diwali, the food and civil supplies department has written to the state vigilance bureau.

Amarjit Singh, a farmer from Sangrur, said paddy arrivals in grain markets got delayed due to untimely rain and many farmers like him had decided to wait to rule out objections over high moisture content.

Vijay Kalra, Federation Arhtiyas Association president, said paddy purchase was high on Diwali as the decision to close grain markets, which came soon after a spell of rain in some areas, left arhtiyas anxious. “The vigilance has been holding checks since yesterday, but the entire procurement exercise in the state is as per the norms and nothing will come out of the probe,” he claimed.

The paddy procurement season will end on November 30 and over 90% of the targeted stocks have already been procured so far. The farmers and arhtiyas are, however, criticising the decision to close down purchase centres, citing delayed harvesting due to the floods in July-August, followed by intermittent spells of rain.

According to officials, the decision to close down some mandis was made to rule out the possibility of paddy from neighbouring states being sold in the border districts of the state and ensure better monitoring at the remaining grain markets.

This article has been republished from The Times of India.

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