Why Punjab must act fast to stop the inflow of paddy from other states
It is a matter of concern that till now, the Punjab government has not taken any concrete steps to stop the inflow of paddy from other states.
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Every year, mandis in Punjab procure far more rice than what is produced in the state. The procurement is done at Minimum Support Price (MSP), which is considerably higher than the price offered by the traders across the country. Large amounts of rice from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar is brought in illegally to Punjab. It is then sold at a higher price in Punjab, giving traders fat profits. The state government must take quick steps to end this practice.
Punjab has taken a firm stand against the new agriculture laws passed by the Centre. Farmers of the state are at loggerheads with the government on this issue. Amid this logjam, farmers of Punjab are apprehensive that excessive procurement of paddy at MSP beyond what is produced in the state will boomerang on them.
In Bihar, UP and other states, traders purchased paddy at Rs 900 to Rs 1,200 per quintal this year, inclusive of transportation charges. They make a neat profit of several hundred rupees per quintal by selling the same paddy in Punjab mandis at the MSP of Rs 1,888 specified by the government.
Farmers of Punjab are apprehensive that excessive procurement of paddy at MSP beyond what is produced in the state will boomerang on them. (Representative image: Reuters)
It is a matter of concern that till now, the Punjab government has not taken any concrete steps to stop the inflow of paddy from other states. It may be so because, at the local level, the police may be hand-in-glove with the traders who bring paddy from other states. By bribing the local cops, traders manage to conveniently smuggle paddy into Punjab.
But at the end of the procurement season, this laxity may cost the Punjab farmers dearly. There is already tension between the Centre and Punjab over the state’s stiff resistance to farm bills. Rampant corruption over the procurement of paddy may lead to adverse consequences for Punjab.
At several places in the state, Punjab farmers have tried to check the smuggling of paddy in the state, but without much success. In mid-October, farmers at the Shambhu border adjoining Haryana confiscated two trucks loaded with paddy. They informed the local police and also the district authorities in this regard. Despite these efforts, the smuggling of paddy from other states into Punjab continues unabated.
In late October, farmers and rice millers clashed at a village in Samana block in Patiala district. The agitating farmers alleged that the local trader was bringing paddy from UP and Bihar to be sold in Punjab. The police have not taken any action beyond confiscating some trucks and registering a few cases.
Punjab Police claim that they have identified inbound routes across the Punjab-Haryana border at Shambhu, Pehowa, Balbera, Cheeka, Dhabbi Gujjran, and Patran in Patiala district. Police claim that nakas have been set up to check the smuggling of paddy into the state. Farmers of the state are not impressed, because the smuggling of paddy into Punjab far outstrips the limited action taken by the police.
This skewed procurement of paddy is not likely to end any time soon. In order to oppose the new farm laws, Punjab Assembly has decided to provide MSP as a legal right to the farmers. The state has decided that wheat and paddy shall not be procured below the Minimum Support Price announced by the government. However, other states do not give this benefit to their farmers.
As a result, farmers and traders in other states shall continue to cash in on the benefit offered by Punjab to its farmers. In the case of basmati also, private traders are eating into farmers’ profits by buying it at a low price and selling it at a much higher price in the international market.
Punjab farmers have complained that rice millers and some political leaders are bringing basmati from UP, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh for official procurement in Punjab. Local farmers fear that as a result, their produce may not be procured by the government amidst the mad rush in the mandis.