The Punjab government on Thursday agreed to directly transfer the Minimum Support Price for crops to the bank accounts of farmers, instead of commission agents, as per the Centre’s instruction. The direct online payment method to the farmers will be implemented from Saturday, when the rabi marketing season begins, The Times of India reported.
Punjab procures wheat and rice at Minimum Support Price on the Centre’s behalf. MSP is paid to the farmers of the state through commission agents who are also known as arthiyas.
Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal had met Union minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday to discuss the matter. “The government of India had asked us to implement the DBT [direct bank transfer] for farmers,” he said after the meeting, according to PTI. “We had sought more time because in Punjab there is a traditional arthiyas system, but the Centre dismissed our demand. We tried a lot but they did not listen.”
Meanwhile, the Centre told Punjab it would procure crops and provide reimbursements only if the state pays the farmers directly, News18 reported.
Badal said that it would be difficult for Punjab to do away with the traditional system of paying MSP through commission agents. “We will come out with a mechanism,” he added, according to PTI.
Punjab Food Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu also said that the state would find a way to implement the Centre’s order, as well as protect the commission agents, News18 reported. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is scheduled to meet commission agents on Friday to discuss the matter.
Sudhanshu Pandey, Punjab’s food and public distribution secretary, told The Times of India that direct transfers would be made to the farmers on the basis of documents of their land, which must be signed by the village head or patwari (village registrar). Meanwhile, the arthiyas will continue to receive a 2.5% commission, unidentified officials told the newspaper.
The development came amid the farmers’ protest against the agricultural laws. Thousands of farmers have camped outside Delhi since November, demanding that the Centre repeal the three laws that open up the country’s agriculture markets to private companies. Farmers fear the policies will make them vulnerable to corporate exploitation and would dismantle the Minimum Support Price regime.
The protestors have hunkered down with supplies that they say will last them for months, and have resolved to not leave until their demands are met. In January, the Supreme Court had suspended the implementation of the farm laws until further orders.