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FCI, government neglect Assam farmers

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  19 Jan 2015 12:00 AM GMT

In fiscal 2013–14, PSAMB procured 116.33 LMT paddy from Punjab farmers against no such procurement by AAMB from the state farmers that year. In 2012–13, PSAMB procured 121.92 LMT from Punjab farmers against 0.07 LMT by AAMB from state farmers. While PSAMB procured 113.55 LMT, 123.70 LMT and 131.36 LMT in fiscal 2011–12, 201011 and 2009–10 respectively, AAMB procured no paddy from the state farmers in all these three fiscals.

By our Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, January 18: The responsibility of FCI and Assam Agricultural Marketing Board (AAMB) towards the farmers of Assam can well be gauged from the quantity of paddy they procure every year from the state.

In a clarification on a news item published in The Sentinel on January 13, 2015 under the headline ‘State farmers selling produces to middlemen at throwaway prices’, FCI said: “…25 paddy purchase centres are being operated by FCI all over Assam and FCI has made all out efforts to avoid any kind of distress sell of paddy in the region. Wide publicity is given by the field officers of FCI so that the farmers can be informed about the MSP (minimum selling price), specification and me of the paddy purchase centres opened in the districts concerned. Necessary officers and officials of FCI are assigned to monitor and purchase the farmers’ yield (paddy) at the PPCs as well as to convey necessary guidelines to us, and as on January 12 this year 7,560 quintals of paddy have been procured by FCI, Assam region through various PPCs.”

The clarification from FCI has made it clear that the MSP of paddy has been notified as Rs 1,360 per quintal for common paddy and Rs 1,400 per quintal for fine paddy by the Government of India for the current marketing season, and not as published.

The ground reality, however, stands that Assam has been a neglected state in so far as procurement of paddy by FCI and the Assam Agricultural Marketing Board (AAMB) is concerned. One of the pretexts for FCI not procuring Assam paddy in bulk is ‘high water content of Assam paddy’.

According to official records uploaded in FCI’s official website, the quantity of Assam paddy procured by the corporation in the fiscal 2004–05 is nil against 11.49 LMT in Punjab. There was no procurement of paddy from Assam by the corporation in fiscal 2005–06, 2006–07 and 2007–08 against the procurement of 10.58 lakh LMT, 2.28 LMT and 1.32 LMT respectively of the commodity by the corporation in Punjab.

In fiscal 2008–09, the quantity of paddy procured by FCI from Assam was 0.04 LMT against 2.05 LMT in Punjab, 0.12 LMT against 6.70 LMT from Punjab in fiscal 2009–10, 0.23 LMT against 5.16 LMT from Punjab in fiscal 2010–11, 0.34 LMT against 1.84 LMT from Punjab in fiscal 2011–12, 0.20 LMT against 5.80 LMT from Punjab in fiscal 2012–13 and negligible against 4.65 LMT from Punjab in fiscal 2013–14.

This is one of the reasons why the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) was on record gharaoing the FCI regiol office located on GS Road in Guwahati many times.

FCI is not the only agency that neglects Assam farmers in so far as procurement of their paddy is concerned. Official records say that Punjab State Agricultural Marketing Board (PSAMB) procures more paddy of the state farmers than FCI. The official records of paddy procurement by PSAMB and AAMB speak volume of neglect Assam farmers are meted out by the state agency.

In fiscal 2013–14, PSAMB procured 116.33 LMT paddy from Punjab farmers against no such procurement by AAMB from the state farmers that year. In 2012–13, PSAMB procured 121.92 LMT from Punjab farmers against 0.07 LMT by AAMB from state farmers. While PSAMB procured 113.55 LMT, 123.70 LMT and 131.36 LMT in fiscal 2011–12, 201011 and 2009–10 respectively, AAMB procured no paddy from the state farmers in all these three fiscals.

It does not slot into place as to why so much money is spent as freight charges for carrying rice to Assam and other states of the region that have much local production of rice. According to a railway circular, from May 20, 2014 the rate for every 1751 to 2000 km in case of Guwahati loaded in Harya/Punjab transportation cost of food grains per MT is Rs 2037.40.

This year, the farmers of Assam have been able to ensure bumper production of paddy by the sweat of their brews, but their efforts have gone in vein due to lack of responsibility on the part of the government at Dispur.

The farmers have to bear the brunt as neither FCI nor the State Agricultural Marketing Board procured paddy from them up to mark. This led the farmers to sell their produce to middlemen at throwaway prices. In most of the cases, the farmers are not even able to recover the cost of production. Some farmers even go for bumper production of paddy by taking bank loans, but their efforts are negated by the lack of responsibility on the part of Dispur.

The State Agriculture Marketing Board has also not procured paddy from the state farmers, as though to leave them at the mercy of middlemen who have been buying bulk of the produces at much lower rates. The farmers have no way out but to sell their paddy at Rs 900 per quintal, much lower than the MSP. According to sources, the farmers who took bank loans for cultivation are apprehensive of incurring huge loss.

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