The Punjab government's initiative to pay farmers through smart cards has fallen flat. Courtesy: a technical glitch.
Already under fire for running behind the schedule in terms of delivering swapping machines, the state government on Tuesday invited ire of farmers and commission agents after the machines developed a snag and kept the beneficiaries waiting for their due.
Procurement agencies had received the machines on Monday, six days after paddy procurement started on October 1. The claims of the state government of clearing the payments within 48 hours have proved to be hollow as farmers and commission agents have not received payments for the past few days.
It is not for the first time that such a situation had arisen. In 2012-13 season, commission agents and farmers faced the similar problem when many swapping machines had reportedly encountered snags.
Sources in the food and supply department said that 150 machines were required in the Jalandhar grain markets, but the district had received 147.
They said that on Monday, when machines reached the grain markets, some untrained commission agents had started swapping smart cards and repeated incorrect swapping led to a software error in the system.
Thereafter, engineers were called to rectify the error and the work was on till late Tuesday evening. Till Monday, only 4% payments were made in the district, but in Nawanshahr, not even a single transaction took place.
A commission agent said he had no clue as to when the agents would receive payments from the government, but farmers were visiting them constantly, making things difficult for them.
Jalandhar deputy commissioner Varun Roojam confirmed that there was a technical snag in swapping machines. “The error has been rectified and the system of disbursing payments will be on track from Wednesday,” he said.
Nawanshahr food and supply controller Baljinder Singh Dhillon said there was a software error in the swapping machine system due to which payments were delayed. He claimed that the problem had been rectified.
Kapurthala food and supply controller Rajnish Kaur also claimed that the snag had been rectified and payments were being made by agencies to agents.
HT fast facts
Paying farmers through smart cards
Under the new system of payment, commission agents will be issued smart cards by the participating banks. Farmers need to swipe their cards on the machine installed at mandi by the banks concerned.
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 accounts of arhtiyas (commission agents) by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).
Eleven leading banks are participating in the project - 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.