Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has expressed his opposition to the Centre’s plan to make direct online payments of the MSP to bank accounts of farmers, bypassing arhtiyas (commission agents), beginning with the next Rabi season.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Singh expressed his opposition to the Centre’s Direct Bank Transfer scheme for them, urging him to ask the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution to postpone the scheme’s execution for at least a year.
Mr Singh stated that he has written a letter to the Prime Minister requesting that the matter be resolved as soon as possible due to the upcoming Rabi season.
According to the Punjab government, he has also requested time from Prime Minister Modi for a discussion on the subject.
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“The arhtiyas and farmers have long-standing relations,” said the Punjab CM, questioning the need to change the system which, he claimed, was “working very well”.
“Around 50 per cent farmers give their land on contract, so how will those who till the land get their money under DBT?” the government’s official statement also asked, quoting the chief minister.
In his letter, Amarinder Singh pointed the Prime Minister’s attention to the Union Ministry’s directives, urging the Punjab government to ensure direct payment to farmers as well as online submission of landowner and cultivator information.
Chief Minister Singh argued that arhtiyas are licensees under the Agriculture Produce Market Committee Act, and that the Central scheme that bypasses arhtiyas in the payment of the minimum support price to farmers for their produce is unconstitutional.
“For the past many decades, the state procurement agencies and FCI have been procuring food grains for the Central Pool,” he said.
They have never protested about not receiving MSP payments, the chief minister claimed, citing “an age-old relationship between farmers and arhtiyas in Punjab.”
According to him, the state government is ensuring that farmers are paid online, albeit through these arhtiyas.
Land ownership and tenancy issues, according to the chief minister, could lead to a slew of avoidable legal problems, particularly during the current farmers’ strike.
“This may also cause avoidable unrest and anguish among farmers,” he said.
He pointed out that getting the software up to speed with the suggested amendments would take a long time.