With the paddy procurement process reaching its fag end, the large number of gunny bags of procured paddy still lying in the Shahkot and Lohian markets have the farmers and the administration worried.
With the local shellers not lifting the grain from the mandis, state transport minister Ajit Singh Kohar, who represents the Shahkot assembly segment, met deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal. After Badal's intervention, the Mandi Board swung into action and made emergency arrangements for lifting of the grain.
Kohar complained to Badal that the majority of the farmers in his constituency could not get the minimum support price (MSP) for their crop.
“Commission agents and the local rice shellers have a nexus, and they deliberately created such a situation to force farmers to sell their paddy to agents at low prices,” Kohar complained to Sukhbir.
Acting on the complaint, Sukhbir instructed food and supply director Satwant Johal to issue release orders (ROs) in favour of shellers of other districts to lift the paddy from the two markets.
Deputy commissioner Varun Roojam said that as local shellers had failed to lift the paddy from the mandis, there was a glut of grain.
“In spite of repeated instructions, the local shellers did not comply with our orders, and ultimately, ROs in favour of shellers from other districts were released,” he added.
An HT investigation revealed that 4.67lakh quintal paddy was still lying in 11 markets in the jurisdiction of Shahkot market committee, and 1.87lakh quintals was lying in eight grain markets under the Lohian Khas market committee on Saturday evening.
However, the DC claimed that the lifting process would begin by Monday, as the shellers from other districts would begin their work, and the competition might force the local shellers to lift their share of paddy as early as possible.
On the terms of the ROs issued by the food and supply direct, the DC said each RO permitted lifting of 300 to 500 metric tonne of paddy, after which the process would continue smoothly.
He, however, ruled out distress sales in the mandis and claimed that only discoloured paddy was sold at a low rate, which was a “usual practice”.
“While the Centre had given relaxation on the specifications of procurement on November 1, procurement agencies could not implement it at an appropriate time due to late arrival of the official order,” he added.