In Punjab, there are around 28,000 registered Arhtiyas and each of them has 20 to 200 farmers associated with them.
The Punjab government has told the central government that it will pay the Minimum Support Price (MSP) directly into the accounts of farmers from this procurement season. But it also does not want to annoy the Arhtiyas (commission agents) who earlier used to pay the farmers and are opposing the direct payment. So, on Saturday, Punjab Chief Minister captain Amarinder Singh said the State Food Department has amended the procurement software so that the Arhtiyas will continue to be involved even in the direct payment process.
Here is a look at this modified system is different from the previous one and how Arhtiyas and farmers are looking at it.
How will Arhtiyas be involved in the direct payment system to farmers?
In Punjab, there are around 28,000 registered Arhtiyas and each of them has 20 to 200 farmers associated with them. Earlier, the farmers’ payments used to come in the accounts of the Arhtiyas who used to give cheques to individuals.
Now, the amount will come directly in the accounts of the farmers, but after the Arhtiyas has clicked a pay now button. The Arhtiyas have to click on the ‘Pay Now’ option within 48 hours, failing which the amount will be credited directly to the accounts of farmers in 72 hours.
How are the Arhtiyas reacting?
“With the modification on the Anaaj Kharid Portal made last year, the Arhtiyas will get a message on the portal that the amount of a farmer linked with him is ready for transfer. At this point, the Arhtiya will get an option to click on ‘pay now’,” explained Vijay Kalra, the president of the Federation of Arhtiya Association of Punjab.
With this, he said, the Arhtiyas will get to know about the payment of the farmers and thus get back the advance paid to these farmers. “If Arhtiyas will not get such a message then the farmer can use that money somewhere else and may not repay the loans,” he said.
Blaming the Centre for trying to create a rift between farmers and Arhtiyas, Kalra said his group has called off the ongoing strike in mandis after the Punjab’s government’s latest decision.
However, not everyone is happy. Ravinder Singh Cheema, president of Arhtiya Association Punjab and former vice-president of Punjab Mandi Board, said the move will only create “doubt in the minds of farmers by informing the Arhtiyas before making the payment”. He said the modification has no relevance as the farmers and Arhtiyas work on trust which is old and deep. Cheema said his association will continue their strike.
What farmers say about the new modification?
Farmer leaders said most of the Arhtiyas have already got the advance cheques signed from the farmers when they give money to them on loan and when they will get a message on the portal that farmers’ money is being transferred in the account of farmers, then they will get those advance cheques encashed.
“But still, we feel that the direct payment will stop the loot by Arhtiyas to some extent. Earlier everything was in the hands of the Arhtiyas who used to make payment. Now the farmers will also have the bargaining power if Arhtiyas overcharge,” said Jagmohan Singh, general secretary Bharti Kisan Union (BKU) Dakaunda.
He said they are in favour of direct payment but the timing which the Centre has chosen is not right given the ongoing farmers protests which has the support of the Arhtiyas.
The Arhtiyas provide various services in the mandis from unloading to cleaning, weighing, filling and loading the crop to government godowns in lieu of which the government pays 2.5% commission to them.
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