A Better Deal For Farmers?
India Today|April 26, 2021
Faced with pressure from the Centre, Punjab is moving towards direct benefit transfer (DBT) to farmers for grain procured for the national granary this season.
Anilesh S. Mahajan

Fifteen other states that procure grain and other agricultural produce for central agencies, too, have started paying farmers directly or have agreed in principle to do so. This replaces the age-old system of paying farmers through ‘arthiyas’ or procurement agents.

Arthiyas facilitate trade in APMC (Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee) mandis for a fee. In Punjab, the total market charges for trade in agricultural produce is about 9.5 per cent of the crop value, including the 2.5 per cent commission paid to arthiyas. The state’s farmer unions, which are agitating against the new central farm laws, want the arthiya system to continue.

Amid pressure from the Centre, Haryana’s Manohar Lal Khattar government launched the DBT system on April 1, but the Amarinder Singh regime in Punjab was dithering for fear of annoying the farmer unions and arthiyas. On April 8, Union consumer affairs, food and public distribution minister Piyush Goyal, in his meeting with Punjab food minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu and finance minister Manpreet Badal, refused to make further allowances, forcing the state to switch to the DBT model. Punjab’s Arthiya Association threatened to boycott wheat procurement during the rabi marketing season, beginning April 10, though many agents came around after assurances from Amarinder.

The situation is less complex in Haryana. The FCI (Food Corporation of India), till now, directly transferred payments to the bank accounts of some of the state’s farmers. This year, MSP (minimum support price) will be credited to the accounts of all farmers selling produce to the FCI. For procurement of mustard, bajra and other crops for their own granaries, Haryana’s agencies paid MSP to farmers partly into their bank accounts and partly through arthiyas.

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