Punjab ‘arthiyas’ to go on strike on Saturday over DBT scheme

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Chandigarh, Apr 9 (PTI) Punjab’s ‘arthiyas’ will go on a strike on Saturday to protest the state government’s decision to follow the Centre’s direction to transfer the minimum support price of farmers’ crops directly to their bank accounts, bypassing commission agents.

The ‘arhtiyas’ on Friday decided to observe a state-wide strike on the opening day of the wheat procurement in the state.

'Around 40,000 'arthiyas' (commission agents) across Punjab will observe strike tomorrow,' Punjab's Federation of Arthiya Association president Vijay Kalra said on Friday.

There has been no proposal from the Punjab government on the Centre's instruction on Direct Bank Transfer (DBT) of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) to farmers from the current season, he said.

'Arthiyas will also hold a state-level meeting at Ludhiana on Saturday to chalk out the next course of action once the Punjab government puts forward its suggestions on the MSP payment to farmers,” he added.

'I held a meeting with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh for over two hours today over the issue of DBT of MSP. The meeting remained inconclusive. We are hopeful that the Punjab government will come out with some suggestions over the issue,' he said.

Punjab minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, however, hoped that the state government would find a solution to the issue of direct bank transfer of the MSP to farmers.

'Farmers and ‘arthiyas’ have age-old relations in Punjab. I am hopeful that a solution to the issue will be found,' he said.

He also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of having an ill will against Punjab as, he said, its farmers have been at the forefront of the protest against the three farm laws.

'Modi is the PM of the entire country and not only of the BJP-ruled states. He should not discriminate against Punjab,' he added.

On Thursday, a group of ministers from Punjab had met Union Food Minister Piyush Goyal on the issue of the MSP payments directly to farmers’ bank account.

After the meeting, Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal on Thursday had said the state government has 'no choice' but to implement the Centre's instruction on the direct bank transfer of MSP to farmers from the current season.

He had also said the Centre rejected the state government's demand to give more time to implement the direct bank transfer (DBT) scheme involving the MSP payments directly to farmers bank accounts.

Punjab procures wheat and rice at MSP on behalf of the central government under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

Till now, the Punjab farmers were paid the MSPs for their corps bought by the state government through ‘arthiyas’ unlike other states where the MSP is directly transferred to farmers’ bank accounts.

'The government of India had asked us to implement the DBT scheme for farmers. We had sought more time because in Punjab there is a traditional ‘arthiyas’ system. But the government of India dismissed our demand. We tried a lot but they did not listen,' Badal had told reporters after a two-and-a-half-hour meeting with Goyal on Thursday.

Citing reasons for rejecting Punjab's demand, Badal had said the central government was arguing that the food stock procured belongs to it and the state government is just an agent and should make payment directly to farmers.

The state governments were asked to implement the DBT scheme for farmers in 2018. By 2019, almost all states had begun implementing it except for Punjab, the central government officials had said.

Opposition Aam Aadmi Party and Shiromani Akali Dal, meanwhile, slammed Chief Minister Amarinder Singh for allegedly keeping farmers and 'arhatiyas' in the dark on the Centre DBT scheme, accusing him of playing a 'fixed match' with the Centre on this issue. PTI VSD RAX RAX