Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday confirmed long-held suspicions that he is more concerned with the interests of the middlemen in the state than that of the farmers when he termed the centre’s move on direct payment to farmers for crop procurement as “another provocation” that would aggravate the ongoing crisis over the farm laws.
Singh alleged that the ‘indifferent attitude’ of the government of India would not help in resolving the imbroglio. He asserted that the Centre’s attempts to seek land records for making e-payments to the farmers directly in their bank accounts from the Food Corporation of India(FCI) would only serve to worsen the current situation.
Punjab CM contended that instead of amicably solving the issue, the Centre was needlessly fuelling further angst among the farmers by asking for land records to make e-payments.
Significantly, the FCI has written to the state government seeking land records to make direct payments to farmers for crop procurement.
It is worth noting that Punjab CM’s criticism over the central government’s move to make e-payments to the farmers is rooted in the threat that direct payments pose for the longstanding system that is in place in Punjab since 1967 where farmers get paid through ‘Arhtiyas’ (commission agents). The centre’s move could hamper the “excellent relations” that the farmers share with the Arhtiyas, on whom they depend for financial support in times of adversity, he said.
How can the farmers depend on big corporate houses to bail them out of their financial crisis, the Punjab CM asked.
Essentially, the Punjab chief minister is worried about the interests of the middlemen, instead of the farmers, who would directly get their payment in their bank accounts from the government and will not have to rely on the arhtiyas for their money.
Punjab Arhtiya Association calls for a strike to oppose the centre’s move for direct online payments to farmers
Interestingly, after the FCI sought land records of farmers from the Director of the Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department in order to make direct online MSP payment to farmers’ bank accounts, the Punjab Arhtiya Association last week announced that they would go on a strike to oppose the move.
The association also held that arhtiyas would stop procurement of wheat from next month as a mark of protest. The association claims that the centre is targeting them for extending their support to the ‘farmers’ protests.
The President of the Punjab Arhtiya Association, Ravinder Cheema, had said last week that they are calling a meeting of arhtiyas to decide on what programmes to undertake as a part of the strike starting this week. He also alleged that the Punjab government has a role in it as it is not giving in writing to the Centre that as per the state APMC act, the farmers have the option to get payment directly in their own accounts or through cheques, which are provided by the arhtiyas.
“We will also carry out a dharna against the state government at Chandigarh if it has not made it clear to the Centre that its own APMC Act gives choice to the farmers for the payment mode,” Cheema said.