Centre asks Haryana to ‘break arhtiya-farmer nexus

There are about 40 lakh farmers in Haryana and over 10,000 arhtiyas.

india Updated: Aug 10, 2018 11:08 IST
Pawan Sharma
Pawan Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Haryana,arhtiya-farmer,Haryana government
Haryana government told Centre that even farmers were against this decision due to their dependence for finances on arhtiyas.(HT File )

The Union government is mounting pressure on the Haryana government to pay minimum support price (MSP) directly to the farmers and break the nexus of commission agents, a powerful lobby called arhtiyas in local parlance and known for having iron like grip over the farmers.

Top government sources say during the August 1 meeting convened to discuss arrangements for the procurement of kharif crops, the Union food secretary and the Food Corporation of India (FCI) authorities again, and forcefully, raised the contentious issue of “direct payment of MSP to farmers” with the Haryana government.

The officers of the government, however, told the Centre that even farmers were against this decision and that implementing it would lead to unrest in view of farmers’ heavy dependence for finances on the arhtiyas.

There are about 40 lakh farmers in Haryana and over 10,000 arhtiyas.

The state agencies procure wheat, paddy, mustard, maize etc and pay about Rs 10,000 crore MSP annually to the farmers in lieu of the procured food grains. Though the government agencies procure grains directly from the farmers, payment to them is done through the arhtiyas.

It is this system of the government releasing MSP via arhtiyas to the farmers that the Centre wants to stop. “We are under pressure from the Centre also to start this system of direct payment (of MSP) to the farmers,” Karan Dev Kamboj, minister of state for food, said.

“Not a single farmer,” Kamboj said, “has come forward and opted for direct payment facility. The farmers registered with the market committees can avail this facility.” According to the minister, one of the key hurdles in implementing this directive of the Centre was that farmers take money in advance from the arhtiyas.

“The arhtiyas are like ATM cards for the farmers. Just walk in anytime and get money. That’s the relationship of the farmers with arhtiyas,” Kamboj said.

Sources say the Centre began pushing for direct payment to the farmers after Rs 31,000 crore food procurement scam of Punjab had started unfolding in 2016.

Raising the issue of “direct payment of MSP to farmers for procurement of agricultural produce in Haryana”, the Union government, in a June 2016 letter to Haryana, had said: “As per (consumer affairs and food) department’s basic principle, payment should be made directly to farmers through state agencies. This department does not favour payment to farmers through arthiyas and it would introduce non-governmental intermediation in payment of MSP to farmers which may lead to distortion.”

The Centre had further directed Haryana through this letter to take “appropriate steps to make necessary amendment in all relevant Acts/Rules” so that “farmer gets payment of MSP for his agricultural produce without intermediation.”

Sources say that after this June 2016 letter, the Centre has been pushing hard and seeking status of this issue in every meeting. Last year, the arhtiyas went on a week-long strike when the state government floated proposal of direct payment to farmers.

“The Union government has been asking to break this nexus of the arhtiyas. They specifically use the term ‘break this nexus’ while seeking details of the steps we have taken to implement direct payment system. In every meeting this issue is hotly debated. So far, our stand has been that it is not possible to implement it. But the bottom line is that both Haryana as well as Punjab will have to implement it sooner rather than later,” a senior government officer refusing to be identified said.

First Published: Aug 10, 2018 11:08 IST