Chandigarh/Fatehgarh Sahib/Bathinda, October 18
The Punjab Government today said paddy lifting had “started smoothly” in all districts even as the protesting rice mill owners, on an indefinite strike from October 10, alleged that government was forcibly dumping the lifted produce at their units.
The millers have been protesting the Food Corporation of India’s (FCI) guidelines regarding the acceptance of only fortified rice kernels.
Though the government claimed it today lifted around 9 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) of the crop, a glut-like situation continues to prevail in several mandis as 67 per cent (18.11 LMT) of the procured paddy was yet to be lifted, according to data provided by the Punjab Mandi Board. Of the 28.27 LMT of paddy that had arrived in various mandis to date, 27.11 LMT had been purchased, said an official. The tardy lifting, however, had been hampering the arrival of fresh wheat, causing inconvenience to farmers, said an agriculturist.
Speaking to The Tribune, Food and Civil Supplies Secretary Gurkirat Kirpal Singh said their attempts to incentivise certain millers, who came forward after the Centre assured of revisiting the FCI’s testing protocol for fortified rice, bore fruit and lifting had restarted in all districts. “Though some mandis are choked, we are hopeful the situation will ease in a day or two,” he said.
In Fatehgarh Sahib, only 31,318 MT of paddy has been lifted. Deputy Commissioner Parneet Shergill said 1,29,494 MT of paddy had arrived across 32 procurement centres, of which 1,23,517 MT had been procured.
The rice millers in the district, following a meeting, decided to give in writing to the Food and Civil Supplies Department to cancel their allotments. Inderjit Singh Sandhu, district president of millers’ union, and Surjit Singh Sahi, Sirhind unit chief, alleged that Food and Civil Supplies Department officials were pressurising them to withdraw their strike.
Harsharan Brar, District Food and Civil Supplies Controller (DFSC), refuted the allegations saying paddy had been allotted to mills as per rules.
In most parts of Bathinda, farmers are yet to start harvesting due to late sowing of paddy. Agriculture experts say the arrival in Bathinda markets would gain momentum after October 25. Due to low harvesting so far, only two farm fires had been reported in the district compared to total 4,592 in 2022 and 4,481 in 2021.
Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Minister Lal Chand Kataruchak said paddy lifting had been going on smoothly in all centres of Amritsar, Fazilka, Kapurthala, Ropar, Mohali, Pathankot and Tarn Taran districts.
Kataruchak said an amount of about Rs 5,100 crore had already been transferred into the accounts of farmers.
Why millers are on strike
- They are protesting FCI’s guidelines regarding the acceptance of only fortified rice kernels (FRK)
- Rice is fortified by adding a micronutrient powder that sticks to grains in layers with a vitamin-mineral mix in the form of a coating
- FRKs blended with custom-milled rice (CMR) in a specific ratio are supplied for public distribution
- It’s part of the Centre’s plan to tackle malnutrition
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