On a day Punjab agreed to implement the Centre’s mandated instruction on direct bank transfer of MSP to farmers bypassing the arhtiyas, the commission agents in neighbouring Haryana went on strike demanding that payments be made through them as had been done earlier.
The announcement by Haryana State Anaj Mandi Arhtiyas Association came even as Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, seeking to assure farmers of a hassle-free and time-bound crop procurement, said all the arhtiyas whose commissions and labour wages are pending since the last procurement season will get an interest on the delayed payment. The government also claims that the athtiyas’ strike has impacted only 20-25 per cent of the mandis.
Haryana began procuring rabi crops from April 1. Sources said the impact of the strike may be visible in coming days when larger number of farmers start taking their wheat to the mandis. As of now, only a small number of farmers are coming to the mandis with the harvesting yet to pick up in Haryana.
Arhtiyas, who play an important role in the procurement process, have been opposing the DBT scheme on the ground that it would be difficult for them to recover their loans from the farmers if the payments are not made through them. President of the arhtiyas association, Ashok Gupta, said the farmers should be given an option to chose their mode of payment.
“The government should pay directly those farmers who have opted for D BT. For others, it should be through arhtiyas. But the government is insisting that all payments will be made to the farmers directly. We fail to understand what is their objection to accepting farmers’ choice of payment? Our strike will continue till the government doesn’t agree to the system of optional payment,” Gupta told The Indian Express.
Explaining logic behind their demand, Gupta said, “The system of payment to farmers through arhtiyas was going on for the past 70-80 years. There was not a single complaint against the arhtiyas regarding payment to the farmers”.
Arhtiyas say the farmers take loans from them and the make the payment after selling their produce to the government agencies through them. “It would be difficult for the arhtiyas to take back their money if the payments are made directly to the farmers,” said an arhtiya.
Haryana Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister JP Dalal, meanwhile, said there was no justification behind arhtiyas’ strike. “We will wait for some time. Otherwise, we have to make alternative arrangements by giving temporary licenses to new arhtiyas to continue with procurement. We may notify new mandis too. We will procure crops from farmers in every circumstance,” said the minister.
Haryana BKU leader Rakesh Bains claimed that all arhtiyas have gone on strike in Haryana. “We have come to know that the government has issued temporary licenses to some persons to make arrangements for procurement.”
Bains said when the government, on its portal, has given the farmers an option of choosing between DBT and payment through arhtiyas, then why was it not being implemented. “Why the government wants to break the brotherhood between farmers and arhtiyas? This seems to be an indication for implementation of three farm laws and disbanding the current mandi system despite opposition by the farmers and arhtiyas,” said the BKU leader.
Meanwhile, Dalal said that the government has accepted all the demands of arhtiyas except one related to DBT.
CM Khattar said that all those arhtiyas whose commission and labour wage amount is pending since last procurement season will get interest for the delayed amount. “The process of payment of interest will start from today and arhtiyas have been asked to get their accounts verified. Necessary directions for the same have been issued to the Food and Civil Supplies Department,” said the CM while presiding over a review meeting of the Rabi procurement process.
He also directed the Deputy Commissioners to ensure that farmers do not face any trouble in bringing their crops to the Mandis. “Proper arrangement for gate pass, computers, drinking water and toilets should be ensured,” he said.