The paddy procurement in Punjab has been stopped midway as the state has exhausted its first installment of cash credit limit (CCL) of Rs 8,000 crore received from the Centre, and the second installment of Rs 10,000 crore has not arrived despite several frantic reminders by the state.
It is a crisis-like situation as the state government has not paid the farmers since ten days for the large quantity of paddy procured by Punjab.
About 40 lakh tonne of paddy still remain in grain markets waiting to be procured by government agencies.
So far, payment has been made for 55 lakh tonne. Other farmers are awaiting payment while agencies have already obtained the grain from them.
This season, the first installment of the CCL reached Punjab on October 10, ten days after the start of the paddy procurement season. It came with a caveat from the union finance ministry that the state government should settle the pending CCL accounts to the tune of Rs 42,000 crore in consultation with the Food Corporation of India before seeking permission for the next CCL advance.
However, officials in Punjab say finance minister Arun Jaitley was not aware of this issue. Once he is apprised of it, CCL will be released immediately, they said.
In response to the Centre's condition, Punjab wrote that the state was yet to get Rs 25,000 crore under various heads for purchases made on behalf of the Centre.
And for the remaining amount of Rs 17,000 crore, wheat and rice are lying in storehouses yet to be taken by the Centre, wrote the state government.
"The Centre has not responded to our reply for adjustment of previous CCL and have also not sent the balance CCL for procurement of this year's crop," revealed a top officer of a state procurement agency.
Despite recommendations by the state, the union ministries of food and finance have been sitting on the issue for the past ten days, the source said.
Punjab had sought Rs 18,000 crore to procure about 120 lakh tonne paddy which is expected to arrive in the markets in the current season.
State agriculture minister Tota Singh said, "Farmers distressed because they are not being paid on time and the wheat-sowing season is fast approaching. The central government should not act like this. The farmers are growing grains for the entire country, and agencies are buying on behalf of the Centre."
He told HT that chief minister Parkash Singh Badal will meet central ministers on Monday, and expressed hope that the finds will soon be released.
Sources said Punjab food and civil supplies minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon met top functionaries of the finance ministry and union food and civil supplies minister so that funds are not stopped.
Mandi board vice-chairman Ravinder Singh Cheema said there was unrest among the farmers because of delay in payment. "The government is taking efforts and payment will be made to farmers as rabi season has already set in," he added.