For slogans and show of an intent, it is easy for anybody to proclaim “I am pro-farmers” or “I stand with farmers”. Similarly, it is easy for branding others “anti-farmers”.
Now here is a litmus test. Should benefits be transferred to farmers directly, or should it be done through commission agents? Any sensible person would opt for the first part, right? How can you claim to be pro-farmer if you support middlemen and commission agents in the matter related to farmers?
Well, that is what the Punjab government, led by Captain Amarinder Singh is doing at present. It has been refusing to implement the direct payment of farmers for their produce procured through government agencies. In Punjab, for grains procured from farmers, the payment does not go to them directly. It reaches the commission agents and then to farmers. We had explained this practice in our article The World of Arhtiyas – The Role of Moneylenders in Punjab-centric Protests That Nobody Talks About .
Fresh Directions from the Centre for Direct Payment to Farmers
According to a report in The Indian Express, the Centre has written to Punjab government to provide land records of farmers to make direct online payment of MSP to their accounts. A letter has also been sent by the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution to implement online direct payment system and compliance of Public Financial Management System (PFMS) from the coming rabi marketing season (2021-2022).
It is not the first time that the Centre is shooting such letters to Punjab government. But all the instructions have been overlooked so far.
The commission agents known as Arhtiyas play a big role in the farm scene of the state. There are estimated to be around 48,000 Arhatiyas in the state. They are also mostly moneylenders who lend farmers at exorbitant rates of interes, ranging between 18 to 24 percent. When the grains are procured from farmers, payment for the same goes to them, from which they cut off both the commission and the loan with interests.
The Centre is striving to take these Arhtiyas away from the scene by remitting money directly to the accounts of farmers. However, the Congress government in Punjab is not budging. Those who claim to be pro-farmers and bash the Centre for all the wrong reasons are not ready to question why the money meant for the produce of farmers should go through middlemen.
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