After being given the stick by the central government, the Punjab government has finally thrown in the towel and decided to implement the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme, bypassing the Arhatiyas (middlemen) to pay out the farmers for their crops. It is being understood that Union Food and Consumer Affairs minister Piyush Goyal, a known hard taskmaster, stood his ground in a meeting with a group of Punjab ministers and forced Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh to give up his love for Arhatiyas.
“The Government of India refused to budge on the DBT issue and insisted that Punjab will have to transfer money directly to the farmers within 48 hours. Otherwise, they said, they (the Centre) will not procure from Punjab. They said that it’s their money, their food and this is the way they want it. They will not pay the arhatiyas (commission agents).” said Punjab’s finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal.
Manpreet further added that the state government had “no other choice” but to implement the DBT for farmers from the current season itself and work out a new mechanism. “The Government of India (GoI) had asked us to implement the DBT for farmers. We had sought more time….But the GoI dismissed our demand. We tried a lot but they did not listen,” he said.
While the centre has pulled Punjab government on the DBT issue, it has given a breather, at least for now, on deferring the implementation of land records integration (required to track land ownership of farmers during procurement) by six months.
Reported last week by TFI, when centre through Piyush Goyal had politely requested Captain Singh to cede to the requests of implementing DBT — the state CM gave a cold shoulder by hosting a video conference meeting with representatives of the Federation of Arhatiya Association of Punjab and pledging his fealty to them. In the meeting, the CM announced assured the middlemen that they will remain an integral part of the procurement system in the state.
“My doors are open for you,” the CM had said back then. However, once the centre tightened the screws, Punjab had to give in and accept the proposal.
In layman terms, the DBT scheme ensures that farmers are paid just the right amount for their crop without a single penny going towards the arathiya’s who are the scavenger hunters of the entire distribution chain.
The middlemen take a hefty 2.5 per cent commission on payments, hidden costs on procurement, taking the total profit of around 10 per cent just for facilitating the trade. Moreover, the arhatiyas also charge money to the farmers by fooling them in the name of the quality of grains and through various other methods.
Reported previously by TFI, with the online system, the process of payments to farmers can be hastened, and the people who sell their produce on MSP will not have to wait for months on stretch for the money.
The direct transfer of farmer’s pay check is expected to revolutionize the farming setup in Punjab which had been governed by the archaic process up until now. The biggest lobbying group in the farmer’s protest has suddenly been rendered useless, and with it, the government has effectively deflated the entire movement, if it had any steam left.