Even as the Congress leaders made a beeline for various mandis in the state to show solidarity with the farmers who are waiting for their produce to be lifted, a few ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders “dared” to visit the mandis this season.
Former Congress legislator from Bathinda Harmander Singh Jassi and Gidderbaha Congress legislator and national Youth Congress chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring were among the first to smell the opportunity to gain politically from the procurement mess. Both Jassi and Warring visited grain markets of Bathinda and Muktsar, respectively, last weekend.
Though SAD’s Bathinda legislator Sarup Chand Singla kicked off the procurement process in the Bathinda grain market, no other SAD leader visited the market since then. Similarly, SAD leaders remained absent from the grain markets of Mansa districts. No one from the ruling alliance visited the Muktsar grain markets, the home district of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. Malout legislator Harpreet Singh is among a few SAD leaders who have been visiting the grain markets despite problems in procurement.
‘CORRUPTION’ LEAVES SYSTEM PARALYSED
FARIDKOT: Lifting of wheat is going at a slow pace in Faridkot mandis even 10 days after the procurement process started. Alleged corruption in the lifting process has left the system paralysed. “First, the commission agents were being forced to pay `2 per bag of wheat for transporting the procured produce from the grain markets, and now transporters are demanding a 50-kg bag of wheat for a trolley load of the produce. Many small-time commission agents cannot afford to pay and the stocks are piling up in the markets,” said a commission agent from the Faridkot grain market.
“The situation is worse in Kotkapura where little lifting has taken place. Labourers have been facing problems as they have to stack the non-lifted stocks without getting paid,” said Suba Singh Mann, president of a labour union in Faridkot. The same contractors get tenders to provide transport facilities for many agencies and they do not have the required vehicles. The same contractors also provide vehicles for lifting cement and fertilisers which leads to shortage of the vehicles, said sources.
Faridkot deputy commissioner Mohammad Tayyab termed the delay in lifting of wheat to the late tendering of transport contracts. “The procurement will pick up a couple of days. The problems have been sorted out,” he said.
VISIT BY POLITICIANS A DRAMA, say farmers
LUDHIANA: State president of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) Buta Singh Burjgill on Tuesday termed visits by politicians in mandis a drama. “Why do the leaders always wake up when it is too late? Coming to the mandis with their supporters and getting pictures clicked during interactions with farmers can’t help us. But they should keep in mind that farmers have started understanding their publicity tricks,” added Burjgill.
Chairman of the United Farmers’ Empowerment Initiative and president of the Punjab Agricultural University Kisan Club PPS Pangli said: “In some mandis, politicians remind one of a busy airport where one flight departs and other lands and it goes on throughout the day, but alas, no benefits at all. Rather they promote themselves.” Chairman of the Punjab Mandi Board Ajmer Singh Lakhowal said politicians’ visits to the mandis are further slowing down the procurement process.
CLOUDS GIVE JITTERS to FARMERS
SANGRUR: More than Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi who visited grain markets of Punjab, it’s clouds that weigh on the minds of the farmers in Sangrur. Sunam-based farmer Jaspal Singh said: “My wheat stocks have been weighed. But how can I feel relaxed till the time I get the money for my produce?” Ishar Singh, 75, of Kulara village said: “I’m waiting here for the past four days, but neither the government agencies nor the private traders have come to procure my produce.” In reply to a question, he said: “If it rains, we will have to dry our grains again. I have no other option but to wait for my produce to be lifted as I have to feed my family. The state government is not worried about the plight of the farmers.”
Farmers Bhajan Preet and Maan Singh from Lakhmir Wala village said: “Our produce has been lifted, but we are yet to receive the payment.”