Paddy procurement began in over 1831 grain markets of Punjab, including 150 principal yards, 283 sub-yards and 1398 purchase centres, on Saturday.
Punjab Mandi Board chairman Ajmer Singh Lakhowal and deputy commissioner Kamadeep Singh Sangha launched the procurement process in Amloh and Sirhind markets. Total 137 metric tonnes (MT) paddy was lifted by agencies in Fatehgarh Sahib district on the first day.
Lakhowal said last year 169.55 lakh MT paddy reached grain markets of Punjab and claimed this year they were expecting 186 lakh MT to reach the markets, an increase of 10%. “It will be a record paddy production in Punjab,” he said.
Lakhowal said instructions were given to district mandi officers and market committee secretaries in the state to look after the arrangements and smooth procurement. “Any negligence may lead to action against officers,” said, Lakhowal.
PRMA STICKS TO STRIKE
However, Punjab Rice Millers Association (PRMA) boycotted the procurement process and said it would continue to stay away from it, till its demands are not met.
PRMA has been demanding that government lower the power tariff for them and bring it to on a par with other industries, which is Rs 4.99 per unit. They also do not want to pay milling charges as suggested by Comptroller and Auditor General’s report. Apart from these, they want state agencies to release transportation charges. They alleged that transportation charges of rice delivered more than 8 km from 2003-04 to 13-14 that has been paid by Food Corporation of India (FCI) to state agencies was 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 FCI but that too not transferred to millers.
“We will continue with our decision and if government fails to meet our demands we may declare ‘no work’ for whole season on October 5,” said, Tarsem Lal Saini, PRMA president, on Saturday.
NOT ENOUGH STORAGE SPACE
PRMA representatives have said the agencies do not have enough storage space for the stock and their strike would definitely build pressure on the government. “In coming days there would be huge rush in mandis and agencies are going to fail to manage the situation,” Said another miller.
“Government will have to back to us.” he added.
Interestingly, after the non-lifting of paddy by some millers in 2007, 9,881 MT paddy remained unmilled till December 2008 and was damaged.
“Procurement has just begun. Millers are in talks with government and there would definitely be a solution by October 5. We will act according to the government’s decision,” said, Kamaldeep Singh Sangha, deputy commissioner, while answering about the arrangements made for storage, if millers continue the strike.