Amid standoff over DBT payment to farmers, Goyal to meet Pb food min on Thursday

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New Delhi, Apr 7 (PTI) Union Food Minister Piyush Goyal will meet his Punjab counterpart Bharat Bhushan Ashu on Thursday in a bid to resolve the ongoing deadlock between the Centre and Punjab over direct online MSP payments to farmers.

The Centre has been insistent that the Punjab government initiate DBT (Direct Bank Transfer) payments to farmers from the Rabi procurement season beginning April 10, whereas the state has been demanding relaxation and continuation of the existing system of making MSP payments to farmers through 'arhtias' (commission agents).

After a Cabinet briefing, Goyal confirmed that he was meeting the Punjab minister on Thursday.

Government sources say that three exemptions have already been given to Punjab and further extensions are not feasible considering that all other major procurement states have shifted to the DBT module in line with the Finance Ministry's guidelines.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has written two letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this regard but has not received a positive response.

The sources said the central government is in no mood to grant further extensions to Punjab, considering that the DBT system in the state has been chalked out and is ready for rollout.

The Centre has also been accusing the Punjab government of misleading farmers on the issue of DBT payments as farmers tilling the land will get direct payments from the Centre on procured foodgrains as is being done in other states.

The sources said the Centre has stated that making direct payments to those farmers who are not landowners will not affect the land-holding pattern and has been questioning the Punjab government on why it is insisting on making payments through 'arhtias'.

With the procurement season starting in the next three days, the current standoff between the Centre and the state government may affect the procurement of foodgrains from Punjab. PTI SKC SKC AAR AAR