Wheat procurement has almost "halted" in grain markets of Punjab due to strikes by transporters and labourers, hitting the farmers hard who are already bearing the brunt of unseasonal rains.
With mandis witnessing wheat glut due to heavy arrivals,hapless farmers have been waiting for purchase of their produce, forcing them to protest against non-procurement of wheat at several places, including Sangrur, Bathinda and Khamano, in the state.
"There is no wheat purchase taking place in mandis. You can see yourself the condition of poor farmers who have already been hit hard by adverse weather conditions," Bhartiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) President Balbir Singh Rajewal said here on Monday.
Of the total arrival of 5.75 lakh tonne so far in mandis, only 60,000 tonne of crop has been purchased, said an official of Punjab Mandi Boad here.
Current wheat procurement was even 90 per cent less than what was procured in the corresponding period of last season.
Agitating transporters have stuck to their demand of restoring the earlier rates for transportation of wheat, as a result of which crop procurement has affected in mandis.
"As per old policy, we were given a minimum of Rs 350 per tonne (for 8-12 km). But from this season, the state government has reduced it to Rs 115 per tonne, which is not acceptable to us. We want old rates be restored," All Punjab Transporters' Union President Happy Sandhu said.
The powerful transport lobby has already been able to make state government agree to its other two demands of contract allotment for transportation of both wheat and paddy and reduction in security fee through "arm-twisting".
The strike by transporters has also hit movement of grain through railways to other states, said Sandhu adding that transporters are not participating in tendering process till
their demands are met.
Labourers are also on strike for their demands related with wages and tender issues.
"We have already held 3-4 meetings with transporters to resolve their issue and most of them have been resolved. While labourers at most of places have returned to their jobs," an official of Punjab Food and Civil Supplies department said.
Meanwhile, Rajewal said that wheat growers have been the main sufferers of government's apathy in the time of crisis.
"What is the fault of farmers if state government failed to resolve the issues of transporters and labourers. They have been waiting endlessly for crop purchase," he said, while seeking immediate start of wheat purchase in mandis.
Punjab is looking to purchase 125 lakh tonne of wheat for central pool for current rabi marketing season.