Tribune News Service
New Delhi, May 10
The Centre said on Monday that the switch-over to the Direct Benefit Transfer of MSP in Punjab has been “beyond expectations”, crediting the “smooth change” to state and central governments and their procurement agencies. Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said of the total DBT of Rs 49,965 crore transferred directly into accounts of farmers across the country for procurement of wheat this Rabi Marketing Season, Rs 21,588 has been in Punjab and about Rs 11,784 crore in Haryana.
Speaking to media persons, Pandey said both Punjab and Centre worked together to bring in the change. He also screened videos of “satisfied Punjab farmers” to make his point. Responding to a question on somewhat different “ground realities” and “pressure” on farmers due to strong ‘arthiyas’ links, Pandey said: “No change is very smooth, but this change has been much beyond our expectations, smoother. Both Punjab and Central governments worked together to ensure that. ‘Arthiyas’ also realised their commission is intact, and that the government is committed to providing it to them.
“They (arthiyas) may be having arrangements with farmers but what the government is paying to farmers is going intact into their accounts. These are just a few videos, the FCI and state agencies have hundreds of them. We have all the database (of Punjab farmers receiving DBT), which can be cross-checked”.
According to the government data, as of May 9 Punjab procured 128.66 LMT and Haryana 80.76 LMT wheat. So far around 337.95 LMT has been procured, benefitting 34.07 lakh farmers against 28.15 lakh on the same date, last year, across the country. Haryana and Punjab switched from indirect payment of MSP to DBT after the Centre refused to give them any further concessions.
Meanwhile, regarding the government’s long-term plans to deal with record grain production and procurement year after year, Pandey said answer can be found by taking recourse to crops where consumption is more than the production¬¬oilseeds and pulses. “India spends around Rs one lakh crore on import of oilseeds and pulses every year. With the kind of agro-climatic conditions India has these can be easily produced within the country”, he said, adding that the government is working on long term solution to manage surplus (wheat and rice).
On whether in future procurement of these commodities will be increased and that of wheat and rice reduced he said: “Land is limited, if we are importing Rs 1 lakh crore worth of commodities that can be easily produced within the country, it should be done by incentivising farmers and that is where discussion is happening among the ministries. Certainly, somewhere reduction will happen, and that choice will be exercised by the farmers who will see the benefit. These are ongoing discussions, definitely managing surplus is a priority for the government”.
Centre hopes retail prices of edible oils will soften following the release of imported stock stuck at ports
According to government data, retail prices of edible oils have shot up by 55.55 percent in the past year, adding to the woes of consumers already reeling under the economic distress induced by Covid pandemic. Responding to a query on steps taken to contain the rise, Pandey said the government is monitoring edible oil prices closely. “The industry mentioned recently there was some holding of some stock at Kandla and Mundra ports because of clearances related to tests done by various agencies as part of the general risk analysis in view of the COVID situation. That problem has been addressed along with customs and FSSAI. With that stock getting released in the market, we hope to see the softening impact on the oil prices”. Meanwhile India’s sugar exports are on a “good course” this year as traders have contracted over 50 lakh tonnes of sweetener so far. Over 50 lakh tonnes of sugar have already been contracted and exports are on a good course, Pandey said. Besides exports, mills were also encouraged to divert to ethanol production.
What the government says:
—Over 1 lakh MT of food grains distributed to over 2 crore beneficiaries by 12 States/UTs in the First 10 days under PMGKAY-3
—During the Covid-19 pandemic around 928.77 LMT of foodgrains, 363.89 LMT of wheat, and 564.88 LMT of rice issued from the central pool for distribution from April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021.
—Rs 49,965 crore transferred directly into farmers’ account across India (DBT)
—18.3 crore portability transactions under ONORC during the Covid-19 period of April 2020 to April 2021 show increased use by working population on move and migrants.
—34 States/UTs have lifted more than 15 Lakh MT of food grains from FCI depots for the month of May 2021 under PMGKAY-3