The Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday directed the Punjab government, Punjab Grains Procurement Corporation (PUNGRAIN) and the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to lift the purchased wheat from all open grain markets of the state within a month to save it from rotting.
The division bench comprising acting chief justice Jasbir Singh and justice Rakesh Kumar Jain issued the directions on Friday, while disposing of a public-interest petition by the Consortium of Indian Farmers Association. The petitioner had submitted that the contractors concerned as well as agencies were not lifting wheat, leaving it to be spoiled by the vagaries of nature.
Rules require process to be over in 72 hours
The petitioner alleged that the contractors were not complying with the state's policy guidelines issued on March 28 for the year 2013-14 regarding the contract of the purchase of crop and its transportation. Clause 17 of the policy requires the contractors to lift the crop within 72 hours, failing which, the purchase agency can exercise its power to get commission agents or other means to lift it on the sanctioned rates.
However, for failing to perform duty, not even a single show-cause notice has been issued, so far, to any contractor, the petitioner has alleged.
'Contractors protected by political leaders'
The petitioner alleged that since the contractors were protected by politicians and the government department, they were free to charge whatever price and not lift the crop, forcing the commission agents and farmers to make own arrangement by paying extra money.
The petitioner also raised the question that when the crop was purchased by the government department after proper inspection, why the farmers had to go through the same checks again at the warehouse end, while if the contractors lifted the stock and transported it to the agency, they didn't have to go through this check.
The petitioner cited the examples of the Ajnala grain market in Amritsar district, where the contractors had not lifted the wheat on the pretext that trucks were unavailable. It was submitted that neither bags nor trucks were available for lifting and, in most cases, farmers themselves did all the lifting.