The Punjab Rice Millers Association (PRMA) may boycott paddy lifting this season in the state. The association alleged that the government has been ignoring their demands for long as they do not constitute a big vote bank. “We will not approach any government agency till October 5 for allotments,” said Tarsem Lal Saini, president, PRMA. The association will take a final decision on the boycott at its general house meeting on October 5 in Jagraon, he said. There are around 3,200 rice millers in Punjab.
“Ours is a small scale industry and we demand electricity at Rs 4.99/unit as the government has done for other industries,” said Saini. He added that some of the millers have been enlisted as defaulters for non-payment of interest on the late delivery of rice during previous seasons. “But, the government had already paid interest to the agencies. So, why are they now putting us in the defaulters’ list?” asked Saini.
Millers alleged that the Punjab government had failed to implement many decisions of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) as well. The government did not implement the FCI’s decision on depreciation of C class gunnies, which may lead to a loss of Rs 15-20 lakh per rice miller, said an office-bearer of the association, Nakesh Jindal. According to the association, the FCI had released payment of gunnies for 2013-14, 14-15 and 15-16 to agencies but it was not transferred to millers.
Millers alleged that state agencies were not paying transportation charges despite the fact that the FCI had already released the money to them. They alleged that transportation charges of rice delivered for more than 8 km from 2003-04 to 13-14, that have been paid by the FCI to state agencies were still not transferred to millers. Transportation charges of the stock delivered from 0-40 km in 2014-15 and 15-16 was also released to agencies by the FCI, but that too has not transferred to millers. “Transportation charges of the stock delivered outside respective districts were not even considered by FCI.
‘No’ to GST
Rice millers termed goods and services tax (GST) a threat to the rice industry as it will lead to a financial crisis in the industry. According to the association, the total output value of a consignment comes out to be 35,000, including 20,000 of paddy husk and 15,000 of rice bran. If the proposed GST of 18% on byproducts is implemented that would be 6,300. Apart from that no milling charges (around Rs 4,000 per consignment) will be paid to millers from 2016-17 crop season, as per the tariff commission’s proposal rather Rs 20 per quintal will be charged from the miller, which comes out to be Rs 8,000. “Total loss on a single consignment will be Rs 18,300.” Said Jindal. “It will lead to a huge loss to the rice industry.” He said that byproducts were tax free as of now.
The millers said that the state government’s move of levying Rs 3 per quintal recovery from 2002 to 2013 was not acceptable. A number of millers have been served recovery notices for the past 11-12 years.
“This is wrong in itself as we are only bound to keep records of last eight years. So, how can they ask us to pay for 12 years? How could we tally our records with the notices?” said Jindal. “Moreover, some of the millers had taken mills on lease and some had sold the property, now how would they find the old records?” he further asked.