Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Friday said that rather than issuing directives to the state government regarding making direct payments to farmers, the Centre must focus on ensuring proper lifting, storage and movement of food grains from Punjab.
Interestingly, farmers' organisations have been struggling for several years to ensure direct payment for their produce, alleging commission agents had been exploiting them.
Sources said that the "lack of political will" was the main stumbling block in implementation of Food Corporation of India (FCI) orders, which would benefit nearly 13 lakh farmers in Punjab, but it would also affect 22,000 commission agents. The FCI was crediting 2.5% commission directly in these agents' bank accounts.
Responding to the Centre's directive on making direct payment to farmers, Badal, who was visiting Talwara to preside over a sangat darshan programme, said that the union government had hardly done anything for safeguarding the interests of the beleaguered Punjab farmers due to which growers have been left at its mercy.
Badal also bemoaned that despite state government's repeated requests for setting up silos on scientific lines, the central government had failed to respond positively.
The chief minister held the railways responsible for failure to timely transport the food grains, thus, aggravating the miseries of the farmers.
"In fact, it is a part of the conspiracy of the central government to derail the development of the state by ruining agriculture, which is the backbone of its economy," he said, without elaborating why the state government was opposing direct payment to farmers during procurement season.
The Commission agents were also opposing tooth and nail the FCI decision to make direct payment to farmers. The state government, which claims to be champion of farmers' cause, was also taking shelter under the Punjab Agricultural Produce Markets Act, 1961, to impress upon the Centre that direct payment would amount to violation of this Act. The department officials maintained that making direct payment to farmers would be a daunting task for the official machinery for lack of logistics and requisite approach.
Badal said that the state government was dutybound for the overall development of kandi belt of the state. "Unfortunately, successive Congress governments have not paid attention to the welfare and development of this region. I have already directed water experts to conduct a survey for ensuring supply of potable drinking and irrigation water in these areas. We need to adopt rainwater harvesting to boost agriculture in the region," he quipped.
Badal laid a foundation stone of research centre of Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University at Bhatoli village.