Patna, April 7 (IANS) Ashok Pandey, a farmer in Bihar, is worried after a Rs.143,000 cheque given by a state agency for his paddy crop bounced twice last one month. He is feeling cheated as the government had announced that farmers would be paid at the earliest for their paddy.
After a bumper paddy crop this kharif season, Pandey was a happy man.
"I was upbeat about selling paddy for good money but the cheque given by the state food corporation bounced," said Pandey, a resident of Kudra in Kaimur district.
Another farmer, Jai Prakash Upadhyay, is also worried for the same reason. "A cheque of Rs.171,000 given to me by the (state) food corporation Feb 16 bounced," he said.
Pandey and Upadhyay are among hundreds of farmers across Bihar who deposited their cheques in banks but these bounced.
It is also an embarrassment for the state government.
Bihar Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Shyam Rajak said last month: "We have directed officials to deposit the amount in the bank account of farmers within 72 hours of procurement."
Pradip Kumar, managing director of the state food corporation, said everything would be sorted out within a week.
"Cheques given to farmers would not bounce in the next one week as money would be deposited in the banks next week," Kumar said.
He admitted that due to shortage of money in their bank accounts, dozens of cheques given to farmers bounced.
So far Bihar has procured nearly 21 lakh tonnes of paddy, with a target of 30 lakh tonnes, officials Friday said.
Rajak said paddy procurement will continue till April 30. "We are sure to achieve a record target of 30 lakh tonnes of procurement this year."
After two years of successive drought, a bumper paddy crop this season has come as a huge relief to millions of farmers in Bihar.
"This year Bihar has produced over 70 lakh tonnes of paddy," Rajak said.
According to the minimum support price announced by the central government, farmers will get Rs.1,080 per quintal of paddy -- up from last year's price of Rs.1,010.
The government has purchased six crore gunny bags worth Rs.200 crore to achieve the paddy procurement target, an official said.
Government agencies involved in procurement had till last week complained of scarcity of gunny bags.
"It was found true and the government decided to purchase gunny bags to remove any hurdles," a Food and Consumers Affairs Department official said.
Bouncing of cheques issued by the government agencies is something which defies all imagination , raises a serious question on government credibility and despite all serious efforts by the government on agricultural development front, sends out a wrong message among the farmers.
It was with a view to obviate such unseemly situations that I made concrete suggestions to the Food and Consumer Protection Minister of the State Government who was participating at a Seminar chaired by me on March 17, 2012 at Pataliputra Ashoka Hotel ( topic: Priorities and Possibilities of Investment for Accelerating and Stabilizing Agricultural Growth in Bihar )convened by PAIRAVI ( a Delhi-based NGO) in collaboration with a number of other national and international funding and developmental agencies including OXFAM and IFPRI and attended by top-level experts and developmental administrators . My suggestions included the need for planning and implementation schedule sufficiently in advance of the procurement season in respect of location of the procurement centres, respective responsibilities of the state/ central agencies , firm funding arrangements and scientific storage of procured grains. These suggestions supported by the participating farmers were welcomed by the Minister who promised to make a foolproof arrangement starting from the upcoming wheat procurement season. Let us hope for the best.
Former Chairman, Bihar State Farmers Commission