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Opinion | How a DM in UP saved farmers from being fleeced by private traders

The farmers had complained to the DM that ‘dictatorial conditions’ were prevailing at the state procurement centres of Karmachari Kalyan Nigam (KKN), UP Co-operative Union (UPCU) and UP Cooperative Federation (PCF), where the officers-in-charge were refusing to procure paddy on the false pretext of excess moisture in paddy.

Rajat Sharma Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive
New Delhi Published on: October 15, 2020 12:06 IST
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Image Source : INDIA TV

Opinion | How a DM in UP saved farmers from being fleeced by private traders 

We often read news reports about negligence or insensitivity on part of some bureaucrats in India, but there are many honest IAS officers in our system who strive to uphold ethics and morality. Their Good Samaritan acts are often overlooked in the national media, even as they toil selflessly to help the common people. 

In my show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Wednesday night, I showed how the District Magistrate of Pilibhit saved hundreds of farmers from being fleeced by private traders, known as commission agents, at the grain ‘mandi’ (Agriculture Produce Marketing Centre). The paddy farmers had expected to get the approved Minimum Support Price of Rs 1,868 per quintal but were being forced to sell at Rs 1,100 by the grain merchants. Farmers were selling their grains by incurring a loss of Rs 768 per quintal. 

Enter Pulkit Khare, the District Magistrate of Pilibhit and the scenario changed completely. On Monday, he suspended three officers in charge of government procurement agencies, after receiving complaints from farmers that rice mill owners and private traders were purchasing paddy at prices lower than the minimum support price. 

The farmers had complained to the DM that ‘dictatorial conditions’ were prevailing at the state procurement centers of Karmachari Kalyan Nigam (KKN), UP Co-operative Union (UPCU) and UP Cooperative Federation (PCF), where the officers-in-charge were refusing to procure paddy on the false pretext of excess moisture in paddy. As per government norms, up to 17 per cent moisture in paddy is permitted, but farmers were not being registered on the state government procurement portal. As a result, farmers were being forced to sell at Rs 1,100 per quintal to private traders, far below the minimum support price. 

Pulkit Khare made an on-the-spot inspection and found moisture level in paddy to be as per assigned standards. He suspended the three officers, Anuj Kumar, Shivraj Singh and Sarvesh Kumar, and ordered officials to immediately carry out on-the-spot registration and verification of the farmers’ records. The DM also recommended to the state government for stern action against the Food Corporation of India procurement centre at the Pilibhit APMC for procuring only 700 quintals of paddy in the last ten days. 

I believe, only upright officers like Pulkit Khare can bring a sea change in the working of our system. Normally we blame the system and bureaucrats for deficiencies in service, but when honest officers stand up for the cause of farmers and common people, they surely deserve praise. 

For the last one month, the three new farm laws brought by the Modi government have triggered farmers’ protests in Punjab and Haryana, and some political parties like Congress are trying to take political advantage. But on the ground level, the situation is quite different. APMCs (grain mandis) are functioning and the MSP (minimum support price) system has not been withdrawn. 

The problem is not with the new laws, or with the intent of Parliament and assemblies, the problem lies in implementation. Farmers in Haryana and Punjab are being misled by politicians with baseless rumours. The Pilibhit example clearly shows that if bureaucrats working in the districts and states work with sincerity and due diligence, farmers will benefit. But if bureaucrats connive with private traders and commission agents, then farmers will stand to lose, even if MSPs and mandis are in place. 

The problem lies with staff at the APMCs entrusted to give MSPs to farmers. Had Pulkit Khare not intervened and given producers their due, the farmers would have considered the new laws and MSPs as just pieces of paper. The farmers would have been forced to sell their paddy at throwaway prices. They would have blamed the government and the system because of the connivance between corrupt staff and private traders. 

While the media normally highlights stories of negligence or insensitivity on part of the bureaucrats, it ignores the good work that is done by hundreds of IAS officers like Pulkit Khare. If our officers work honestly and diligently in the interest of the farmers and common people, the day is not far when the dreams of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be fulfilled.

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