Punjab CM assures support to ‘arhtiyas’ on MSP payments to farmers through them

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Chandigarh, Apr 1 (PTI) Under the Centre’s pressure for the MSP payments directly to farmers’ bank accounts, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday assured ‘arhtiyas’ of his government’s full support for the restoration of the older system of payment through them.

Singh gave the assurance to ‘arhtiyas’ following the Centre’s latest directive ruling out any further relaxation to the state on the direct benefit transfer, involving direct online payment to farmers, bypassing 'arhtiyas', for the wheat crop to be bought by the government agencies on the minimum support price.

The chief minister told 'arhtiyas' or the commission agents, who met him under the banner of the Federation of Arhtiya Association of Punjab, that they would remain an integral part of the procurement system in the state.

“My doors are open for you,” the CM told the 'arhtiyas' during a virtual meeting, in which they raised the issue of the continuance 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 for grain procurement. 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 give him time to meet on the DBT issue, he and his government would keep writing to the central government and knocking on its door on the 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. PTI CHS VSD RAX RAX