After Enforcement Directorate nudge, Punjab begins probe into supply of crop-residual machinery

Published on Jul 05, 2022 01:35 AM IST

Punjab finance department will look into the financial aspect and track the system of subsidy disbursal while the agriculture department will physically verify the machines given to beneficiaries. The ED has reportedly asked the state agriculture department to be ready with the report.

At least 90,000 machines, including super straw-management system, happy-seeders, super-seeders, paddy-straw choppers, reversible ploughs, zero-till drill, balers, rakes and shrub master, smart-seeders and spatial-seed drills, crop-reapers and self propelled reaper-cum-binders were supplied to farmers in Punjab on subsidy between 2018 and 2021 to mix paddy stubble into soil (in-situ management). (HT File/Representational image)
At least 90,000 machines, including super straw-management system, happy-seeders, super-seeders, paddy-straw choppers, reversible ploughs, zero-till drill, balers, rakes and shrub master, smart-seeders and spatial-seed drills, crop-reapers and self propelled reaper-cum-binders were supplied to farmers in Punjab on subsidy between 2018 and 2021 to mix paddy stubble into soil (in-situ management). (HT File/Representational image)
By, Chandigarh

After the Enforcement Directorate (ED) pointed to irregularities in the supply of subsidised crop-residue management machines, purchased at a cost of 1,145 crore, the state government has initiated inquiry into the matter.

The state’s finance department will look into the financial aspect and track the system of subsidy disbursal while the agriculture department will physically verify the machines given to beneficiaries. The ED has reportedly asked the state agriculture department to be ready with the report.

“We have sent a performa to our field staff to verify each and every machine supplied to farmers in the past few years,” said agriculture secretary Dilraj Singh. He confirmed that a similar inquiry has been initiated by the finance department as well.

The matter had first come to fore in 2019 when it was found that the supply of machines to at least three dozen custom-hiring centres remained only on paper. An individual farmer was offered a subsidy of 50% while custom-hiring centres, including village-level agricultural societies, were offered a subsidy of 80% per machine.

The then Congress-led state government kept the matter under wraps; however, in 2021, three months before going to the polls, Charanjit Singh Channi, who had by then taken over as CM, along with his agriculture minister Kaka Randeep Singh, smelled a scam and wrote to the Prime Minister for a high-level probe.

At least 90,000 machines, including super straw-management system, happy-seeders, super-seeders, paddy-straw choppers, reversible ploughs, zero-till drill, balers, rakes and shrub master, smart-seeders and spatial-seed drills, crop-reapers and self propelled reaper-cum-binders were supplied to farmers on subsidy between 2018 and 2021 to mix paddy stubble into soil (in-situ management).

The funds were received under two schemes – crop-residue management and sub-mission for agricultural mechanisation.

Under the in-situ residue management scheme, offered by the Centre, 269 crore was disbursed in 2018, 273 crore in 2019, 272 crore in 2020 and 331 crore in 2021, taking the total to 1,145 crore. It pertinent to mention that the state has sought 474 crore for supplying subsidised machines for in-situ management in the upcoming kharif harvest season, pegging the number of different machines at 32,100.

The machines were supplied to dissuade paddy growers from burning stubble, which is an environmental hazard and leads to smog in North India in the months between October and November.

Though the machines were disbursed to a large section of farmers, many still continue to set crop residue on fire so as to get rid of it quickly and prepare the farms for rabi crops, particularly wheat.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Gurpreet Singh Nibber is an Assistant Editor with the Punjab bureau. He covers politics, agriculture, power sector, environment, Sikh religious affairs and the Punjabi diaspora.

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