The Centre on Friday night agreed to release the second instalment of the cash credit limit (CCL) of Rs 10,451 crore to Punjab for the procurement of paddy.
The decision came after state food and civil supplies minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon explained to senior officials of the union finance and food ministries that the state was justified in seeking the outstanding recoveries of Rs 25,000 crore from the Centre, and foodgrains worth Rs 19,000 crore stored in Punjab were yet to be lifted.
Punjab chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal, secretary food and civil supplies DS Grewal and other officials accompanied Kairon. Later, at a meeting chaired by finance minister Arun Jaitley with officers of finance, food and banking ministries it was decided to release the second instalment.
With this, the state government has decided to credit Rs 3,100 crore into the accounts of 2,200 commission agents towards payments to be made to farmers. The decision followed several frantic calls by the state to the Centre.
This season, the first instalment of Rs 8,000 crore of the CCL had reached Punjab on October 10, 10 days after the start of paddy procurement. It had come with a caveat from the union finance ministry that the state government should settle the pending CCL accounts of Rs 42,000 crore in consultation with the Food Corporation of India before seeking permission for the next CCL advance. Sources said the CCL was cleared after assurance given by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in a letter written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that a committee comprising officials of the state and central governments would be set up to look into the claims of recoveries to be made by the Centre and the state from each other.
Meanwhile, a crisis-like situation had been building up in the 1,900 procurement centres of the state, where 100 lakh tonnes of paddy has been procured but payment could be made only for 50 lakh tonnes. Also, a protest planned by the Congress on Saturday has fizzled out with the release of the CCL instalment.
Ravinder Singh Cheema, vice-chairman, Punjab Mandi Board, which regulates procurement at all procurement centres, said, “A crisis has been averted with the release of the CCL. The Centre is requested that in future the funds for procurement should never be stopped as Punjab farmers grow paddy and wheat for the central and state government agencies that procure them for the Centre’s public distribution scheme.”
The delay in the release of the CCL instalment has, meanwhile, delayed the procurement season and the sowing of wheat has also been pushed ahead. Punjab officials say now the payment to all farmers would be made in 10 days.