Punjab’s secretary, agriculture, K S Pannu said distribution of coupons to farmers has begun and those identified to sell their produce on April 15 have already got them. On Monday, the chairman of market committee in Patran issued passes of farmers to arhtiyas (commission agents). As per the plan, the agriculture department is moving three days in advance and will try and engage labour of the same village in fields and in grain markets.
Focus back on arthiyas
There are over 47,000 arhtiyas (commission agents) in Punjab who cater to around 15 lakh farmers. The state government planned to minimise their role but has now deferred the scheme of online payment to farmers and arhtiyas are back in the picture. Federation of Arhtiyas Association president Vijay Kalra said, “We hope that the nearly five lakh MGNREGA workers get involved in the exercise. Also, there is no bar on women workers pitching in the work at grain markets of the state.”
Arhtiyas will remain a crucial link between farmers and procurement agencies as they arrange for auction and delivery of produce. They are also the money lenders and have come to be known as the ATMs of farmers.
In case the state faces any problem of labour or gunny bags, it will be at the end of arhtiyas as cleaning, weighing and loading processes are labour intensive. “Every detail has been finalised and we don’t foresee any problem in the procurement process,” said Kalra.
Many combine harvesters still not back
According to the agriculture department, over 17,000 combine harvesters will be used in Punjab but due to delayed harvesting across states, many machines are still not back from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Sukhjit Singh Dhaliwal, a combine operator from Punjab, said he had decided to work in Rajasthan this year. “Because of delay in harvest, we could not finish assignments in Rajasthan and come to Punjab, as is the cycle every year,” he said.
Pannu said the Centre had allowed movement of farm equipment and most combine harvesters were back in Punjab. He added that the agriculture department is ensuring that these are properly sanitised.
Opposition not convinced of arrangements
“Leave alone procurement, the state is not even properly prepared for wheat harvest. The migrant labour is not available and local workers are yet to be mobilised by the state agencies. Many labourers have been put in quarantine in other states. It is going to be a mammoth exercise as the state government is not doing enough,” Aam Aadmi Party farmers’ wing in-charge Kultar Singh Sandhwan said.