Farmer unions protest against FCI direct payment and rental document orders
Recent orders from the Food Corporation of India have led to a new flashpoint in ongoing farmer protests, with agricultural unions warning that Center’s insistence on direct payment and rental documents could derail the process supply of crops.
On Monday, agricultural unions affiliated with Samyukt Kisan Morcha demonstrated outside FCI offices in Punjab and Haryana, as well as in places in other states such as Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Declaring FCI Bachao Divas (or Save FCI Day), the farmers demanded an immediate withdrawal of recent orders.
“The government should cancel the provision of direct payment to the bank account. Implementing it in haste can lead to many complex issues that will prevent so many farmers from getting their price from the crop, ”said a letter from SKM to the Ministry of Food and Consumer Affairs. The FCI has insisted that paying direct to farmers’ bank accounts, bypassing powerful arhatiyas or commission agents, will lead to greater transparency and accountability. Since the arhatiyas play a key role in the agricultural ecosystem of Punjab and Haryana by providing agricultural loans, a large part of the farmers as well as the government of Punjab opposed it.
Another FCI ordinance states that sharecroppers and sharecroppers must produce a jamabandhi, or legal agreement proving that they have the right to plow the leased land, in order to be paid for the crops purchased. Thousands of sharecroppers do not have such agreements and will be hit hard by this movement. SKM is also requesting that this order be withdrawn.
The FCI’s proposals to tighten the quality requirements for the supply of wheat and paddy from the next marketing year are also contested.
At a broader level, farmers linked their issues with the CFI to their existing demands to repeal agricultural laws and enact a legal guarantee for the purchase of all crops and minimum support prices.
“The laws will increase private sector control over food grain storage, cold storage, food processing and marketing,” All India Kisan Sabha said in a letter to the prime minister.
“Ultimately, the government plans to end the distribution of subsidized food under [the Public Distribution System] and reduce it to a money transfer system under pressure from the [World Trade Organisation] and imperialist countries like the United States. He also plans to sell the FCI warehouses to the private sector to repay debts, ”he added, accusing the Center of cutting the FCI budget and supply centers in recent years.