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Don’t expect more exemption on online MSP payment, Punjab told

Punjab’s non-compliance with the government order on direct online payment of minimum support price (MSP) to farmers could spell trouble for rabi procurement this year with the Centre digging in heels and saying the state would not get any further exemption in the matter. The wheat procurement in Punjab starts from April 10.

Official records show Punjab is the only among 12 procuring states not making direct digital payment to farmers, as mandated by the Finance Ministry’s Public Finance Management System (PFMS) order issued on May 28, 2018.

Punjab continues to pay farmers through arhtiyas under the Punjab Agriculture Produce Marketing Rules-1962, which, it says, mandates MSP payments through commission agents. Several states have even integrated their land records with the central procurement portal, something Punjab hasn’t done.

Food Minister Piyush Goyal has now again written to Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh citing past exemptions the state was granted and urged urgent compliance.

On Punjab’s concern that title issues may arise where land had been given on lease for tilling by absentee landlords, Goyal said Punjab should follow Haryana’s software that enabled details of tenant or share-cropper to be uploaded on the portal with a disclaimer that this would not be a legal proof for claiming ownership.

The Tribune has, meanwhile, accessed an internal government note that shows that the Food Ministry is against granting any further waivers to Punjab.

The CMD of Food Corporation of India, during his recent visit to the state, even conveyed this: “The readiness of the system in Punjab is not an issue. Willingness on the part of Punjab is still questionable.” The Secretary, Food, has spoken to the Punjab Chief Secretary and the Principal Secretary (Food), making it clear that no exemption shall be granted this year. “In the event of non-implementation, the Centre would not be obliged to reimburse the cost of procurement and other incidentals,” says the note. The note also says that in 2020, during verification of payments, the Centre had detected an alleged deduction of Rs 12 per quintal made by arthiyas from MSP payment at the cost of farmers.

“The GoI stand is that the entire MSP should be transferred to farmers’ account and should not get parked into arthiya’s account,” says the note. Punjab is the top contributor to the central wheat and paddy procurement pool, which is why its compliance with online payment norms is more important, government sources said.

Many chances given, Goyal reminds Capt

Despite multiple exemptions and sufficient time, Punjab has not implemented norms for direct digital MSP payment to farmers. — Piyush Goyal, Food Minister

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