Central team to visit Punjab next wk to assess paddy procurement mess

Written by Charanjit Ahuja | Chandigarh | Updated: Oct 31 2010, 03:59am hrs
The government has agreed to send a high-level team to Punjab next week for an on-the-spot assessment of damage caused to paddy crop even as farmers organisations in the state resorted to Rail Roko (stopping of trains), demanding relaxation in specifications of paddy in view of high moisture content and serious damage to its colour due to heavy rains in the last few months.

Agency report said that train services in many parts of the state was severely hit due to the farmers agitation.

Meanwhile, Centres decision to send a high-level team was taken following a letter written on Friday by chief minister, Parkash Singh Badal to Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh and Union agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar seeking their immediate intervention as failure to act could lead to law and order situation in the state.

The state chief secretary SC Agrawal also wrote to the cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar to seek his personal intervention for immediate relaxation of the specifications to enable purchase of paddy by the FCI and the state procurement agencies.

He also mentioned that if this was not done immediately there could be a situation of civil unrest in the state. He demanded immediate action to relax specifications of paddy being procured by government agencies.

Highly placed sources in chief ministers office told FE here on Friday that a special team of senior officers will visit grain markets in Ludhiana, Moga, Sangrur, Barnala and Mansa districts next week.

In separate letters to Singh and Pawar, the chief minister said the moisture specification should be increased from 17%to 20% and discoloration of paddy up to 10%.

With another bumper crop of paddy expected this season, Punjab has procured over 8.5 million tonne of paddy since the procurement started October 1. Five procurement agencies of the state government and the FCI are engaged in the procuring process at 1,710 centres across Punjab.