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Farmers cry foul over wheat lifting in Punjab

Pankaj Dhiman | Chandigarh |

Farmers and commission agents in Punjab have accused the state government of making false claims of proper lifting of wheat stored in various grain markets of the state. They have been complaining of poor lifting system in the grain markets and said the state government’s move to pay lower rates to labourers for wheat lifting was further affecting the process.

Sources said the bumper produce of wheat during the current season is also another reason to delay the lifting. They added that the covered storage space has been used by paddy from the last kharif season. The wheat is still arriving in grain markets, said a source.

“The state government’s effort to lift the wheat from market agencies are insufficient. The farmers are feeling harassed as they are not getting adequate rates and facing a delay in the lifting of their produce,” Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokari told The Statesman.

However, secretary of Khanna grain market committee, which is said to be Asia’s largest grain market, said that the wheat lifting process was going on smoothly there. “We are transporting over one lakh wheat bags daily. Initially, there were some complications in the system but now everything is in place,” he said.

On the other hand, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has said another form of goonda tax had started in Punjab, this time targeted at commission agents and farmers, by forcing them to cough up Rs 3 to Rs 4 per bag to shift procured wheat stock to godowns (stores).

SAD spokesperson Parambans Singh Romana said farmers were already in a state of deep distress in mandis (grains markets) because purchase of wheat was being deliberately delayed due to lack of lifting.

He said after failing to arrive at a settlement with transport unions to ensure efficient lifting of wheat, Congress politicians who have taken these contracts without having the requisite resources, were forcing commission agents and farmers to pay for this exercise.

“Congress politicians in Farikdot as well as across the Malwa region are sucking the blood of farmers by forcing them to pay for transportation of the wheat procured from them,” he alleged.

The SAD spokesperson said the food and supply department was playing the role of a mute spectator and failing to give any justice to farmers. He also demanded wheat be lifted from mandis immediately, saying the entire procurement process had become paralysed due to mismanagement.

During his visit to Talwandi Sabo to review the ongoing wheat procurement last week, the new Cabinet Minister for Food and Civil Supplies Bharat Bhushan Ashu said the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has planned 400 special trains for loading procured wheat from grain markets to other for the months of April and May 2018.