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With a smooth switchover to direct benefit transfer (DBT) of the MSP, Punjab has recorded its highest ever wheat procurement during this year’s rabi season despite the ongoing farmers stir against the Centre’s new farm laws. It was the first time in Punjab that farmers were paid directly instead of through ‘arhtiyas’ or middlemen.

The Union agriculture ministry has attributed an ‘almost flawless’ transition to farmer’s acceptance of the new mechanism and crediting the smooth change to central and state’s procurement agencies. Punjab and Haryana have been the biggest beneficiaries of the new system of direct transfer. Off the 50,000 crore transferred directly to the accounts of farmers, over 23,000 crores were direct payments to over 9 lakh farmers in Punjab alone. Haryana has accounted for over 12000 crore payment under the DBT. According to the government data, Punjab procured over 132 LMT and Haryana over 82 LMT of wheat.

Union Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said, “No change is very smooth, but this change has been much beyond our expectations, smoother. Both Punjab Government and the Centre worked together to ensure that. Arhtiyas also realised their commission is intact, and that the government is committed to providing it to them.”

Even farmers on the ground have been satisfied with the new mechanism in place. “Without having to wait for the middlemen we get the money from our produce directly. This way we have got timely and full payments,” said Jagtar Singh, farmer from a village near Jalandhar who got over 10 lakhs for his wheat produce directly in his account this year.

This year over 9 lakh farmers from across Punjab came to Mandis to sell their produce which was higher than the last year’s number of 8.8 lakhs. This despite the fact that The rabi marketing season was just 34 days, 12 days shorter than last year. Agriculture department sources said that while in Malwa region the procurement was little less but Daoba and Majha reported higher procurement. Also, what was encouraging for farmers and agriculture officials was the higher procurement despite a slightly lesser yield. Last year the state had recorded a yield of 50.04 quintals per hectare while this year the yield was to the tune of 49 quintals per hectare.

Punjab switched from indirect payment of MSP to DBT after the Centre refused to give them any further concessions.