The cash-strapped state government is going to take Rs 500 crore loan from the West Bengal Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation (WBIDFC), an agency which was set up to promote industrial activities in districts, to procure paddy from farmers.
This is the first time that an agency under the state industry department is lending money to the state food and supply department to help it procure paddy from farmers, an oficial said.
Senior state government officials said the Mamata Banerjee-government wants to keep funds ready so that cheques can be distributed promptly to the farmers.
Last year, several cheques had bounced as the state government did not have enough funds to procure paddy. As the central fund for paddy procurement did not arrive at the right time, payments could not be made to the farmers quickly. Delay in payment forced many farmers to commit suicide, which caused major embarrassment to the state government last year.
“The process of lending is expected to be completed within three to four days. We will take Rs 500 crore loan from WBIDC and Rs 300 crore from the West Bengal State Cooperative Bank (WBSCB) to pay farmers for the paddy that they will sell to five procuring agencies,” State Food and Supplies Minister Jyotipriya Mullick told The Indian Express. “We hope that we will be able to pay for 22 lakh metric tons of paddy that will be procured directly from the farmers. We feel a fund of Rs 800 crore is good to start the procurement,” the minister said.
He added that the state government has already received an order of Rs 1 lakh metric tons of paddy from the Tamil Nadu government. “The Centre, which reimburses money for the procurement, do not dispatch funds at the right time. Also, the funds we get is not adequate. So by taking loan, we will be able to streamline payment,” a senior state official said.
The Trinamool government, according to some officials, is in touch with other state governments to convince them to import paddy from Bengal. The state has set up a target to procure 22 lakh metric tons of paddy from farmers this year. The price for each quintal of paddy is fixed at Rs 1,250.