Even though the Punjab government agreed to the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) to farmers against the purchase of foodgrains, the farmers and middlemen in the state are still not ready to abandon their existing system. In a situation that seems to defy logic, farmers in Punjab are saying they don’t want payment against their crop directly into their bank accounts, but want to route the same thorough commission agents, where the agents will release the payment after keeping a commission.
While the purchase of food grains by the state procurement agencies for the Rabi harvesting session was to start from today, it was blocked by protestors at several places in Punjab. Not a single truck of wheat arrived at Asia’s largest grain market in Khanna in Ludhinana, as farmers stayed away from it. Labourer unions and arhtiyas (commission agents) staged a strike against the scheme of direct payment to the farmers, in ‘support’ of the farmers.
The General Secretary of Majdoor Union in Punjab said that “if centre’s direct benefit transfer scheme is implemented, it will destroy farmers”. He said that the majdoor union workers have staged strike supporting farmers who have been protesting for past few months.
One Arhtiya said that the strike will continue till their demands are met. He said that due to the decision of the centre to make direct payment to the farmers, the labourers will be in trouble as they take their payments from the arhtiyas.
In the grain mandi in Jalandhar, some farmers arrived with their wheat, but they could not sell it as the arhtiyas and labourers were in strike. The farmers claimed that direct payment is not beneficial to them as arhtiyas were also used to pay the same amount, and in times of difficulties they could approach the commission agents for financial assistance, which will be not possible now if they kept out of the system.
After resisting the DBT for MSP payment against foodgrain procurement for months, Punjab govt had, at last, agreed to the same this week, after the central govt made it clear that if the scheme is not implemented, the centre will not lift the stock from the state. The centre refused the state govt to exempt it from the scheme, and give more time to it to implement the scheme. The state Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Bada said that the state government has “no other choice” but to implement the DBT for farmers from the current season itself.
After the announcement by the state government, the arhityas had announced that they will go on a strike from 10th April, the date when the procurement for the current session was to begin.