Punjab CM assures ‘arhtiyas’ over direct bank transfer row

Chandigarh, April 1 (IANS) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday assured the ‘arhtiyas’ of his government’s full support in the wake of the Centre’s latest directive ruling out any further relaxation to the state on the issue of direct bank transfer (DBT) to farmers against payment for grain procurement.

“My doors are open for you,” the Chief Minister told the state’s ‘arhtiyas’ or commission agents during a virtual meeting, adding his government would continue to stand with them and fight for them against the Central government’s move to destroy the established system of making payments to farmers through them.

The ‘arhtiyas’ will remain an integral part of the procurement system in Punjab, he declared, while directing the department concerned to release the pending Rs 131 crore of the ‘arhtiyas’, due from the state government.

The Chief Minister said he had been seeking time from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who appeared to be busy with election campaigns in various states, for a meeting on the DBT issue.

Though he did not think the Prime Minister would give time to him, he and his government will keep writing to the Central government and knocking their doors, he asserted.

He had already written to the Prime Minister on March 19, and had personally spoken to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and the latter had assured of all help in the matter, Amarinder Singh told the ‘arhtiyas’.

He further said state Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Minister Bharat Bhushan had also met Shah to discuss the issue.

At the meeting, the Federation of Arhtiya Association of Punjab accused Haryana of betraying them by accepting the DBT proposal of the Central government.

They described the neighbouring state’s Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and PM Modi as two sides of the same coin. “But we have faith in you,” they told Amarinder Singh.

Promising to do his best for the ‘arhtiyas’, the Chief Minister said the farmers in Punjab shared long-standing and time-tested relations with the ‘arhtiyas’, who were the backbone of the successful procurement system in the state.

An official spokesperson said after the meeting that the Chief Minister had discussed with the ‘arhtiyas’ their concerns threadbare and assured them that the state government will work out all possible options to resolve the issue and approach the government of India with the same.

Besides continuance of the existing system of payment to farmers through them, the ‘arhtiyas’ are demanding clearance of all dues from the Food Corporation of India. They have also opposed linking of land records with farmers’ produce being brought into the mandi, pointing out that there is no provision in the existing APMC Act or rules to allow this linkage or demand this data from the farmer.

In case it is to be implemented then it would automatically require an amendment in the APMC Rules, the ‘arhtiyas’, led by federation president Vijay Kalra said.

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