The Arhatiyas, or commission agents, backed by the government of Punjab, clashed with the central government over directives from the Center to the Food Corporation of India to transfer the Minimum Support Price (MSP) directly to farmers’ bank accounts . The Arhatiya state association also threatened to boycott the process of purchasing wheat in the Punjabian mandis from April 10 as well.
Only two days before the Punjab wheat supply begins, three Punjab ministers – Minister of Finance Manpreet Singh Badal, Minister of Food and Civilian Supplies Bharat Bhushan Ashu, Minister of Education and disabled people Vijay Inder Singla and Chairman of the Board of Directors Mandi Lal Singh will meet with Union Minister Piyush Goyal in Delhi on Thursday.
Speaking to News 18, Ashu said the Center invited the ministerial delegation to discuss the issue of MSP direct bank transfer, which is not accepted by arhatiyas as well as farmers. He said the minister assured that the necessary changes would be made if necessary.
All hopes are placed in the meeting to break the deadlock.
The president of the Federation of Arhatiya Associations, Vijay Kalra, said he had submitted all questions to the chief minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, which includes payment to farmers through arhatiyas as opposed to direct payment. from the MSP to farmers as proposed by the Center through the FCI, payment of Rs 131 crore to Arhatiyas pending since 2019, in addition to the exemption for farmers to produce land registers. He said if their demands are not met, they will boycott the procurement process from April 10.
Captain Amarinder Singh has repeatedly said that the Center should not try to disrupt the native ecosystem of Punjab’s agrarian economy by forcing such rules. He said that the Arhatiya and Farmers Association for Easy Cash for Crop Exchange is an age-old practice and serves Punjab farmers who can easily negotiate with local commission agents and also obtain easy loans in case of emergency, which would not be easy for them because of the banking system time. He said his government strongly supports the arhatiyas.
The Center movement, coming in the context of the agitation by farmers against Farm Bills, is viewed differently as the BJP had previously claimed that it was a movement of the arhatiyas and by only the arhatiyas who resist the modernization of agricultural practices in the State for their vested interests.
The question of the mode of payment to farmers was settled after seven years by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana in 2013. Farmers’ organizations had advocated for options to be given to farmers to choose their mode of payment in as “arbitrarily” arhatiyas. deduct the loan amount before paying the farmers. Today, the retired chief secretary of the government of Punjab, Suresh Kumar, then head of the agriculture department, had called for farmers to be given a choice of how they wish to be paid.
One of the faces of the farmers’ movement, Dr Darshanpal, along with Dr Jagmohan fought for direct payment to farmers, but have now questioned the timeline for the Centre’s move. In addition, Punjab BJP leaders like Madan Mohan Mittal, Surjit Iyani and Harjeet Grewal had also advocated payment through arhatiyas only.
Sources say the Center, which successfully implemented DBT in Haryana where the procurement process began on April 1, may resort to leaving the payment method to farmers.
Economist Lakhwinder Gill said: “In 2012, we also released a guidance document recommending that we should exit arhatiya as an intermediate ecosystem, but opposition should be made with confidence and such decisions must be implemented involving all stakeholders. and after sufficient preparation for the same, even the right decisions can turn out to be bad if the timing is wrong. Decisions must be made after building confidence in farmers.