Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday sought the Centre’s support in settling the Rs 31,000-crore debt due to the foodgrain procurement by the state government during the previous Shiromani Akali Dal regime. Singh met Union food minister Ram Vilas Paswan and suggested setting up a review committee to examine the matter afresh. The food ministry, following the directive from the finance ministry in April 2016, had set up the Jha committee to look into the mismatch of grain stocks in Punjab against the loan availed as part of the cash credit limt (CCL) from banks for carrying out procurement of rice and wheat for the central pool. In October last year, then Akali Dal government lead by Parkash Singh Badal had decided to borrow Rs 31,000 crore from the banks and repay in 20 years to settle the issue of mismatch in grain stock. The onus on repayment is now with state government which has to pay Rs 3,240 crore annually along with interest cost.
“All issues were sorted out then. Amarinder Singh wants a separate committee to review it again. We will discuss with finance ministry officials,” Paswan said after the meeting. Singh also sough waiver of interest rate on the debt and urged the Centre’s support in clearing the debt. Besides, the Punjab CM urged the food ministry and Food Corporation of India (FCI) to settle pending bills and make timely payments for foodgrains procured for the central pool with retrospective effect.
Sources told FE that besides some outstanding payment for wheat procurement for the recently concluded rabi marketing season (April-June 2017-18), FCI has settled all the payment to five grain procuring agencies in Punjab such as PUNGRAIN, Punjab Civil Supplies Corporation etc. Punjab is the biggest contributor to the central-pool grain stocks. It contributed more than 11.7 million tonne wheat to the cental pool in the recently concluded 2017-18 rabi marketing season (April-June) out of the total purchase of 30.8 mt by the FCI and other state government agencies. Similarly, out of the 38.57 mt of rice purchased so far by the government agencies across the country in the 2016-17 season (Oct-Sept), Punjab has contributed 11 mt.
In the forthcoming kharif marketing season (2017-18) scheduled to begin on October 1, Punjab is expected to contribute 11.5 mt of rice to central pool. As per the guidelines, in Punjab and Haryana, state agencies procure wheat and paddy from the farmers. While the wheat is stored with state agencies, the paddy is handed over to millers for conversion into rice. Subsequently, the FCI takes over the stock for the dispatch to the consuming states (mostly for the public distribution system) as per the requirement after meeting all the expenses such as minimum support price, storage, milling and transportation cost to the state agencies.