Punjab CM Amarinder Singh assures support to 'arhtiyas' on MSP payments to farmers through them

CHANDIGARH: Under the pressure from the Centre to switch to direct payment to farmers for their crops bought at the MSP, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday expressed his government’s support to ‘arhtiyas’.

Singh gave the assurance to ‘arhtiyas’, the state commission agents, following the Centre’s latest directive, ruling out any further relaxation to the state on the direct benefit transfer issue.

Under the DBT, farmers are to be paid directly for their crops bought by the government agencies at the MSP, bypassing ‘arhatiyas’.

In a video conference with representatives of the Federation of Arhtiya Association of Punjab, the chief minister assured commission agents that they would remain an integral part of the procurement system in the state.

“My doors are open for you,” the CM told ‘arhtiyas’ who raised the issue of the continuation of the existing system of MSP payments to farmers through them.

Punjab ‘arthiyas’ are up in arms against the Centre’s latest directive for direct payment to farmers.

Union Food Minister Piyush Goyal on March 27 had written to the Punjab government, asking it to implement the direct payment of the minimum support price (MSP) to farmers.

The chief minister told the commission agents that he has been seeking time to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who, he said, appeared to be busy with election campaigns in various states.

He told ‘arhtiyas’ that though he did not expect the prime minister to meet him on the DBT issue, he and his government would keep writing to the central government and knocking on its door on the DBT issue.

The chief minister told commission agents that he had already written to the prime minister on March 19, and had also spoken to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who, he claimed, has assured him of all help in the matter.

He further disclosed that Punjab’s Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu too had met Shah to discuss the issue.

At the meeting, the Federation of Arhtiya Association of Punjab accused Haryana of ‘betraying’ them by accepting the DBT proposal of the central government.

The Punjab chief minister said the Punjab farmers share a long-standing and time-tested relations with ‘arhtiyas’, whom, he described as ‘the backbone of the successful procurement system in the state’.

The CM also ordered the concerned state department to release the pending Rs 131 crore payment to commission agents, due from the state government.

An official spokesperson said in the meeting the chief minister discussed the commission agents’ concerns threadbare and assured them that the state government will work out all possible options to resolve the issue.

Besides continuance of the existing system of payment to farmers through them, the ‘arhtiyas’ are demanding clearance of all dues from the Food Corporation of India.

They are also opposed to the proposed linking of land records with farmers’ produce being brought to ‘mandis’ (gran markets), claiming that there is no provision in the existing APMC Act or Rules to allow it.

In case it is to be implemented, it would automatically require an amendment in the APMC (Agriculture Produce Market Committee) rules, the Arhtiyas, led by Federation president Vijay Kalra, asserted.