After struggling to get the central funds for the procurement of wheat and paddy in four consecutive crop seasons, the Punjab government proposes to form a special “financial management cell” to rid the state of cash-credit-limit (CCL) woes.
Other than handling Rs 45,000-crore annual central grant for procurement, it’s mandate will be to end years of mismanagement of this money, which led the Centre to seek Rs 20,000 crore back and the state to resist. Pungrain (Punjab Grains Procurement Corporation) is the current nodal agency for disbursing the CCL to farmers.
“The proposed cell will take up with the Centre what we owe each other,” said a food department officer. “It is require because the stop-gap arrangement failed.”
The “FMC”, as it is already being called, will comprise experts from the food department and five state procurement agencies, possibly with a young IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer as head. It is expected to get functional by the paddy procurement starting October 1.
As the financial mess is attributed to lack of coordination between procurement agencies, which are under different state departments (Pungrain and Punsup under food and supplies, Markfed under co-operation, and agro-industries and warehousing corporations under agriculture).
“The cell will track every rupee received from the Centre and every grain delivered to the Food Corporation of India for the public distribution system,” said a top officer of the food department, not willing to be quoted until the council of ministers clears the mater.
The cell will function under food department and the finance department will look at the feasibility before the proposal goes to the state cabinet.
25,000 cr sought for paddy procurement
Expecting a bumper paddy crop (the five state agencies expect arrival of 140 lakh tonnes of grain in the markets), the state government is asking the Centre for a CCL of Rs 25,000 crore for its procurement.