Despite initial reluctance of the Punjab government to accept Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) mode for payment of the Minimum Support Price (MSP), the process seems to be yielding rich dividends for lakhs of farmers in the State.
In the first few days of online transfer of the MSP for the wheat procured by the Food Corporation of India (FCI), the Centre has been able to transfer an amount of Rs 13.71 crore in Punjab benefitting around 1.6 lakh farmers. The Centre had been trying to implement the process of DBT since 2015-2016, but managed only this year to get the system in place despite stiff resistance from arhtiyas (commission agents) and the Punjab government. The Punjab government had been rooting for the traditional arhtiya-based payment system to farmers. Even in the last attempt prior to the procurement process, the Punjab government sought exemption from the Centre which was declined.
The procurement process in Punjab began from April 10, while in Haryana it began from April 1. Haryana leads the tally in the procurement process among 11 States and two UTs where wheat is procured at MSP (Rs 1,975 per quintal rate this year).
Around 81.64 lakh tonnes of wheat, against the national target of 427.36 lakh tonnes, has already been procured. The FCI will procure the maximum 135 lakh tonnes from Madhya Pradesh and 130 lakh tonnes from Punjab. As per the data released by FCI, the Central government agencies have procured 18.24 lakh tonnes of wheat from Punjab and 36.30 lakh tonnes from Haryana during the ongoing rabi season till April 15.
Providing details, Union Food Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted, “One Nation, One MSP, One DBT, Punjab’s farmer is the happiest he’s ever been in his 15 years spent as a farmer after getting DBT as MSP for his crop Modi govt. is working hard to ensure happiness of crores of farmers across Punjab & India.(SIC).’’
He went on to say that at least 1,64,455 farmers from Punjab have been able to benefit from the DBT.
But in an election year, the Punjab government also did not want to antagonize the arhtiyas. The Punjab government has tweaked the software for payment which will also enable arhtiyas to keep track of the payments being made to the farmers. But eventually the money will be transferred directly to the farmer account.