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BJP MPs Seek Goyal Intervention

New Delhi: A delegation of BJP MPs from Odisha on Wednesday sought personal intervention of Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Piyush Goyal to resolve the issues on alleged mismanagement and corrupt practices in the paddy procurement operations in the State.

The MPs have submitted a memorandum to the Union Minister alleging gross irregularities in the paddy procurement process by the Odisha Government.

“We, the public representatives of Odisha with deep concern, would like to draw your attention over the scuttling of paddy procurement in Odisha by the State Government causing great distress to Odisha farmers,” the MPs said.  

Earlier, the MPs had written to Mr.Goyal in March 2021, based on which a fact-finding team of senior officials from Department of Food & Public Distribution (DFPD) was sent to Odisha to oversee the process of paddy procurement operation. The team visited various districts from March 21 to 25and its observations and recommendations/ suggestions were also submitted.

The observations of the team about paddy procurement operation in Odisha are serious in nature and points out the malice/corrupt and fraudulent practices prevalent in Regulated Markets Committees (RMC)/ Primary Agriculture Credit Societies (PACS)/Paddy Procurement Centres (PPCs), they said.

“The issues pointed out by the fact finding team about shortcomings in the paddy procurement operations in Odisha are still persistent and continue to mar the procurement process,” they alleged.  

According to the memorandum, in all the Regulated Market Committees (RMCs), the actual paddy procurement window is severely curtailed compared to the official window, creating panic among small and marginal farmers.

Against the official 151-day window, actual procurement windows varied from as low as 40-43 days in some RMCs. Furthermore, recent protest by the employees of the PACS have delayed the opening of the Mandis, thereby causing the issued token to be lapsed.

The 30 days token system being exploited leading to favoritism and many tokens belonging to small and marginal farmers getting lapsed. As Mandis are not being opened at all in some RMCs, irregular lifting of rice at Mandl has created an additional issue of storage of the grains for farmers.

Farmers are spending nights guarding their produce at the Mandis. In the scorching winter, this is extremely harassing for the farmers.

Most of the Mandis Managed by PACS/WSFIGs have limitation of storage space godowns, this is further aiding to the benefit of private millers who are lifting the paddy at lower cost.

The BJP MPs also made allegations about manual filling of weigh-slips, unequal distribution of paddy procured among different millers, unlawful procurement, non-existent of the quality control process and non-availability of required infrastructure.

“The entire procurement process was found to be miller driven. Surprisingly, the State Government has allowed millers to perform all the mandi operations viz. supply of used gunnies, transportation of paddy, loading and other mandi labour works. This is against the guidelines of GOI,” they further alleged.

These poor paddy farmers are forced to forgo 6-8 kg of paddy per quintal to the brokers and agents; a practice which is locally dreaded as ‘katni chhatni. Farmers are not getting their legitimate price due to such katni chhatni.

It is extremely unfortunate that the Government of Odisha is yet to act on the suggestions/recommendations as submitted by the Central team. Failure of Odisha Government in managing the Mandis and high dependence on private millers has led to lapses of issued tokens to the farmers resulting in non-realisation of fair price of their crop produce.

The BJP parliamentarians said this has also led to mass distress sale by the farmers and would have dire consequences for them white coping with pandemic/cyclone related losses.

“We also request you to instruct Government of Odisha to follow the suggestions/recommendations of the Fact Finding Committee of DFPD, Government of India strictly which shall be instrumental in ensuring seamless and timely procurement of the farm produce and timely compensation to lakhs of farmers in the State of Odisha,” the MPs wrote in the Memo.