In a move that ensures transparency in the system and serves the farmers’ needs, almost all the states have implemented direct MSP payment to the farmers for the crops procured from them, but Punjab is still not ready to introduce direct e-payment to the farmers bypassing the commission agents (Arhtiyas).
The Punjab government has sought additional time to implement online payment of MSP directly to the farmers, as submission of land records remains a major hurdle for a large part of them who have have given their land to some cultivators on rent or contracts.
However, Haryana, who had been facing similar issues is all set to make direct e-payment fully to the farmers from the upcoming Rabi Marketing Season (RMS) 2021-22, although commission agents said that land records is not a major issue but relationship with farmers matters the most.
Sunil Bansal, a commission agent from Haryana’s Samalkha, said: “If the cultivator is not the land owner and he has taken the land on lease or contract, he can produce his agreement paper.”
A senior government officer, however, said that records of land is not the major issue in Punjab as digital record of the plot is available with the state government and whenever the crops are being damaged due to floods, droughts and other reasons, an assessment is carried out and the farmers are given their compensations.
Land records are available but have not been integrated with the procurement portal for ensuing Rabi season, leaving the farmers at the mercy of Arhtiyas, said the officer.
Despite Centre’s several efforts, Punjab continues to evade the complete implementation of direct online payment to farmers, he added.
However, Punjab BKU leader, Harinder Singh said it will create an unnecessary burden for the farmers as they will have to moving around the Patwari for the records of the land.
He also said that usually farmers take loan from the commission agents and pay after selling the crops, therefore, it is easy for the agents to recover their loan from the farmers if the price of the crop directly goes in the account of the commission agents.
Union Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said that land record is mandatory for procurement as it ensures transparency and genuine farmers get the benefit of MSP.
He said that some of the states like Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar and Rajasthan have introduced biometric identification of the farmers for procurement of grains on MSP to ensure transparency in the system.
Sans Punjab, direct online payment of MSP to the farmers will be implemented across the country this rabi season, he added.
The central government has introduced proper registration of farmers and monitoring of procurement to ensure transparency. An MoU has been signed between state government and the Centre whereby the state agencies have to ensure the use of EAT (Expenditure Advance Transfer) module of PFMS (Public Financial Management Systen) while making the payment.
State government’s online payment system has to be integrated with PFMS & they are duty bound to share data relating to procurement operations on the National Procurement Portal for foodgrains. This ensures end to end tracking of fund till the last mile beneficiary.
Despite repeated reminders and requests from the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance in 2018 and 2019, Punjab government gave the standard response of not being able to implement the system due to resistance from Arhtiya and APMC Act provision for making payment through Arhtiya, said a senior official.
The official said, “Central government responded to these concerns by clarifying that the state will have to bring its processes and laws in line with the directions of the GoI However, once again, no progress was made by Punjab. Resultantly, from December 18, 2018 onwards, release of administration and arhtiya charges to it were withheld.”
In the month of January & February of 2021, three meetings were held by DFPD (Department of Food and Public Distribution) with the officers from Punjab. Punjab reported that integration of AnaajKharid portal is under progress.
On March 4, 2021, DFPD once again wrote to the officers of Punjab government and requested to comply with the PFMS and implement the online system for RMS 2021-22, said the official. The top official of FCI recently visited Punjab to personally interact with the state government officers and ask for their cooperation in furthering the interest of farmers.
On March 18, 2021, the state government was once again requested to comply with the PFMS guidelines and implement the online system completely, as per the Food Ministry sounces.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister of Punjab, Amarinder Singh has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to ask the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution to postpone the implementation of the scheme for at least a year.