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Helpline of no help to farmers

punjab Updated: Oct 02, 2013 23:00 IST
Jatinder Kohli
Jatinder Kohli
Hindustan Times
investigations

Though paddy procurement started here on Tuesday, the district administration authorities seem to be oblivious to problems being faced by farmers.

HT found that calls to the special control room telephone line, set up to help farmers, either went unattended or the attendant failed to guide the caller properly.

On Wednesday, this reporter called up the 24-hour helpline (0181-2223986) around 7.15am and the call went unanswered. At the reporter's second attempt at 7.30am, the call was disconnected. Again, the third call around 3pm went unanswered. A call at 3.30pm was answered by one Hansraj.

Posing as a farmer, this reporter sought some information about discoloured paddy from him, but instead of answering the question, Hansraj asked the reporter to call after some time, saying that the person concerned had gone out for some work.

Though the administration claimed that it was a 24-hour control room dedicated to help farmers, investigations revealed that it was actually the number of the district and food supply department.

Meanwhile, when it started drizzling on Wednesday morning, farmers, who were already in distress due to discoloured paddy, started covering their produce with tirpals.

Rain had already caused high moisture content in paddy crop and had led to delay in harvesting of crop. The crop arrival might pick up if sky remains clear for a few days.

The moisture content in paddy was varying between 18% and 20%, which was higher than the permissible limit of 17%.

An official said that not only the moisture content was higher than the permissible limit, but there were reports of dicolouring of paddy due to high-velocity winds witnessed on September 15 and rain last week.

Deputy commissioner Varun Roojam said: "I will immediately call the district food and supply controller to put the helpline in system so that farmers are able to contact the administration any time for any kind of help they require."

Rice millers threaten to go on strike

Meanwhile, Rice Millers' Welfare Association, Punjab, gave an ultimatum to the state government to accept their demands, else they would go on an indefinite strike.

After a state-level meeting with the members in the city, association president Rakesh Jain said that paddy had been damaged due to windstorm and rain.

He said grains had broken and were discoloured. "A central government team should be called to check and make new norms for the new season regarding the delivery of rice," he said.

He said that time limit for 2012-13 rice delivery should be extended till October 30 and millers who were unable to deliver 2012/13 rice, the recovery rate should be decreased from `2,744 to `2,328.