Even as paddy procurement started in Punjab a week ago, the state government’s initiative to pay farmers through smart cards has fallen flat as procurement agencies have yet to get card-swapping machine for the purpose.
Already facing the heat over slow paddy procurement in grain markets of the district, the state government has invited the ire of farmers and commission agents for running behind the schedule in terms of delivering swapping machines.
Due to this, the state government’s claims of clearing the payments within 48 hours have proved to be hollow as farmers and commission agents have not received payments for last six days.
It is not for the first time that such a situation had arisen. During the 2012-13 season, commission agents and farmers had faced a similar problem when many swapping machines reportedly developed snag.
Sources in the food and supply department said as many as 150 machines were required in the grain markets of the district.
Sources said banks have been allotted to grain markets last week during a meeting of officials of food supply department but machines are yet to arrive in the markets, which further is delaying payments to the farmers and commission agents.
It has been learnt that not only swapping machines, procurement agencies are yet to supply proper gunny bags to grain markets as a result of which there has been a delay in lifting of paddy from the main grain market in the city.
The banks are yet to give swapping machines to food inspectors and hold a training session for them since wrong swapping may lead to software error in the system which may further cause delay in payments.
A commission agent said he had no clue as to when the agents would receive their payments from the government. The farmers, however, are visiting them frequently, making things difficult for them.
Information gathered from the mandi board department reveals that 3.60 lakh quintal paddy has arrived at 78 grain markets of the district of which 2.85 lakh quintals had been procured till Monday.
Last year, 3.12 lakh-quintal paddy had arrived in the grain markets here of which 2.5 lakh quintal was procured till October 6.
Eleven leading banks — State Bank of India, HDFC Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Punjab National Bank, Punjab and Sind Bank, Axis Bank, Bank of India, Corporation Bank, Union Bank of India, Central Bank of India and State Bank of Patiala — are participating in the project.
Harnam Singh, district president of commission agents association, said the procurement agencies had not made any payment to agents procuring paddy.
District food and supply controller Rakesh Singla was unavailable for comments.
New payment system
Under the new system of payment, commission agents have been issued smart cards by banks. Farmers need to swipe their cards on the machine installed at the grain market
After a card has been swiped, entry would be flashed in the portal of agencies for further approval by the agency staff
Once the agency staff approves it, payment is credited to the account of arhtiyas (commission agents) by National Payments Corporation of India.