Punjab to pay farmers through ahrtiyas, says state minister
- The Centre last month told Punjab and Haryana governments to ‘compulsorily’ use electronic modes of payment to pay MSP to farmers.
Punjab food, civil supplies, and consumer affairs minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu on Saturday said that the state government is paying the farmers through ahrtiyas (also known as commissioning agents) as per the provisions of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act.
Ashu also said that chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh made it clear that the payments made to farmers will directly reach them through ahrtiyas. “Accoridng to the rules of APMC Act, we are paying farmers through ahrtiyas. The chief minister made it clear that payments will directly reach farmers through ahrtiyas,” Ashu was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Ahrtiyas are commissioning agents who help farmers sell their crops to buyers. Ahrtiyas facilitate the transaction between farmers and buyers - the buyers can be a person, a firm or a company or a cooperative society or a government agency or even to a public undertaking agency, a public agency or a corporation - and receive a commission for facilitating the transaction following which they pay farmers money for their crops.
The minister's declaration comes in the backdrop of the farm laws protests which allows the farmer to operate outside APMCs, which negates the role of the ahrtiyas as farmers can now sell their produce to any prospective buyer anywhere in the country. The Centre on the other hand believes in sending the money to farmers directly in their bank accounts, which the Punjab government is reluctant to do.
The Centre last month had said that the direct transfer of payments of minimum support price (MSP) to farmers’ accounts is a method ‘to check diversion and avoid delays’. It stressed that the Punjab and Haryana governments need to ‘compulsorily’ use electronic modes of payment to pay MSP to farmers.
Ashu along with chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh had sought permission from the home minister Amit Shah last month to disburse the payments for the upcoming wheat procurement, expected to begin from April 1 in Punjab through the commission agents. The Centre had asked the Punjab government to make the payments directly or through Ahrtiyas, according to an HT report.
Earlier on Monday, the Punjab chief minister said that the Centre’s move on direct payment to farmers is an act of provocation after the Food Corporation of India (FCI) sought land records from the Punjab government to make e-payment to the farmers directly for crop procurement, according to a PTI report.
“The system of paying farmers through ahrtiyas is a time-tested system in place since 1967. Farmers hold an excellent relationship with ahrtiyas and can depend upon them when they face financial difficulties during adverse situations, can farmers rely on big corporate houses in times of crisis?” the chief minister said.
Arhtiyas are also a major part of the ongoing protests against the farm laws at Delhi’s borders. In December, the IT department had conducted raids on several ahrtiyas following which the commissioning agents closed mandis across Punjab for four days in protest. Farmers' leaders and Punjab ministers called the move an attempt to defame the protests.