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Govt nod to paddy buying by commission agents, farmers feel cheated

The government has again approved the kacha arhati system in Uttarakhand, under which kacha arhatis or commission agents procure paddy from farmers on behalf of the government

dehradun Updated: Nov 16, 2017 20:24 IST
Abhinav Madhwal
Abhinav Madhwal
Hindustan Times
paddy buying,commission agents,kacha arhati
The government had promised to ’review and remove’ the kacha arhati system after a ₹600-crore rice scam hit the state last year.(HT File)

The government has again approved the kacha arhati system in Uttarakhand, under which kacha arhatis or commission agents procure paddy from farmers on behalf of the government.

The government had promised to “review and remove” the kacha arhati system after a ₹600-crore rice scam hit the state last year.

Farmers suspect role of rice millers behind the continuation of the kacha arhati system. Purushottam Sharma, the general Secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Kissan Mahasabha, said that the commission agents exploit the farmers. “We have been demanding that the government should directly buy produce from the farmers, which would reduce corruption. There were talks that the farmers would dry their produce at the mandis and sell them directly, but the government is promoting commission agents for benefitting the rice millers and commission agents,” he alleged.

Farmers also alleged that many rice mill owners themselves function as commission agents.

The special investigative team (SIT), which probed the rice scam, had pointed out that the kacha arhatis bought rice from the farmers at rates below the minimum support price (MSP) — the minimum rate of a crop fixed by the government — and sold it to the government at the MSP, due to which the farmers were deprived of their actual dues. Besides, the rice millers had allegedly bought low quality rice from other states and supplied it to the government.

This year, only 28,000 metric tonne (MT) rice has been procured by the government in the Kumaon region against the set target of 74,000 MT.

Farmers alleged that the commission agents have already purchased the rice at low prices and stocked it. They would sell the purchased rice to the government at the MSP, thus making a killing, they alleged.

Lalit Mohan Rayal, the regional food controller of Kumaon, said that on November 13, some paras of the previous commission agent policy have been included in the new policy, which means the system will stay.

He said there are different ways for paddy procurement, which includes involvement of the marketing division, Uttarakhand cooperative federation and cooperative societies. Besides, the commission agents also play a big role in the procurement. “These persons are registered with the mandi and sales tax department. They purchase grains from farmers in mandi yard, sell it to the government and get 1% commission,” he said.

Rayal said the number of commission agents is more because there are less numbers of government weighing centres. He said a close watch would be kept on the rice procurement by the commission agents so that they do not indulge in malpractises and buy grains from farmers at lower rates than MSP.

First Published: Nov 16, 2017 20:23 IST