Many farmers will spend the Diwali night in grain markets.
When the world celebrates at home on Tuesday, they'll still be waiting for the procurement of paddy. Even farmers from the home district and native village of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal will have no respite.
The Punjab government has failed to break the nexus between procurement agencies and rice millers. "It will force us to spend the festival night in grain markets," said Lakhvir Singh, waiting for the past 22 days at the grain market of Badal village.
"Diwali means nothing for us, if our crop is not procured," said Harbans Singh of Manna village. "We will have no money to spend. Worse, we'll have to sleep in the grain market even on the important night." He has spent 25 days in the grain market at Badal.
Officials of the procurement agencies accompany rice millers to the markets, only for the sake of formality. "Both are hand-in-glove," said Tarsem Singh of Gaggar village. "Rice millers seek commission to procure paddy, and the agency officials accept bribe from millers to keep the process slow on one pretext or the other." Gaggar is attached with the Badal grain market, and Tarsem has wasted 16 days there, so far.
Farmers of 15 villages bring their paddy to the grain market of Badal village. An official report suggest that paddy worth Rs. 618.40 crore has been procured in Muktsar district, and farmers paid Rs. 550.14 crore, so far. A procurement agency official said on the condition of anonymity that the statistics didn't reveal the true picture.
"Rice millers behave as extortionists," said the Markfed official. "They demand commission from farmers and commission agents for procurement. The miller-agency nexus has hit farmers at Badal the most."
At Badal, nearly 25,000 bags of paddy wait to be procured. Muktsar has been the scene of many protests in this procurement season. Mandi board chairman Ajmer Singh Lakhowal had a tough time on his visit to the district.
The procurement problem became slower when the millers refused to store paddy. The administration's attempting to transport the paddy to the millers outside the district did not help much.