TIRUCHY: Shortage of storage facilities and proper dryers, have made the farmers risk their lives to dry the paddy.
“Since most of the dryers are situated along highways and national highways, we are left with no option but to dry the harvested paddy along the highways risking our lives. Once, there were ‘kalam poramboke’ for storing and drying the paddy adjacent to the DPCs but they have vanished in the past 40 years”, said Swamimalai Sundara Vimalnathan, secretary of Tamil Nadu Cauvery Farmers Protection Association.
He said that those ‘kalam poramboke’ lands were owned and controlled by the revenue department and the local body. “But in due course of time, these lands were encroached by all elements including the farmers”, charges Vimalnathan and asked to discover those lands and put them to use for the benefit of the farmers which would prevent them from spreading their paddy along the highways.
This apart, Vimalnathan urged the state government to ensure dryers in all the DPCs. “We are ready to provide the paddy within the mandatory moisture percentage. We urge the government to allocate proper funds in the upcoming budget”, he said.
Bribe of Rs 50 per kg still continues
According to farmers, the major problem faced by them is the need to grease the palms of procurement staff. They claim that the staff quoting their pay deducts a minimum of Rs. 50 per bag before paying the farmer their due amount.
As the farmers are already frustrated by the problems of the vagaries of nature, raising costs of input and non-availability of institutional finance. With this deduction, friction is bound to happen between the farmers and the procurement staff.
Following the directions of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the Food Corporation of India had already instructed the procurement agencies to pay the farmers through the Electronic Clearance System (ECS). Yet, the problems are not resolved, the farmers claimed.
Swamimalai Sundara Vimalnathan, the secretary of Thanjavur District Cauvery Farmers protection association says the long pending demand of farmers for ECS acceded but the collection of Rs 50 and two kg of paddy per bag continues. This creates an unnecessary argument between the farmers and the DPC staff, he said. “It was Rs 40 per bag during the previous government and now it is Rs 50 per bag,” Vimlanathan said.
Need permanent buildings to store paddy
Though the state government had opened around 2,500 DPCs so far, more than 50 per cent of the centres are functioning in rental buildings and rented land where the Cover and Plinth (CAP) storage system is adopted. Some of the rented buildings and areas rented out for procurement could not withstand heavy rains. The procurement staff covers the storage with tarpaulin sheets.
According to Sami Natarajan, the District Secretary of Tamil Nadu Farmers Association (AIKS) says there is a need for more DPCs and to augment the capacity of the existing permanent DPCs with more concrete floors and fencing to bar cattle from entering the centre, he added.
Besides the DPCs, the TNCSC officials rent out warehouses of the Central warehousing corporation to store the procured paddy before sending the paddy bags to hulling agents throughout the state. With the advent of harvesting machines, harvest in vast areas is being done simultaneously resulting in heavy arrivals at the DPCs making procurement and storage problematic.
Paddy getting piled up as DPCs fail to procure 1K bags per day
The state government had instructed each DPCs to procure at least 1,000 bags per day. But due to various reasons including a wide collection of bribes by the employees, the farmers are left in the lurch. Many centres procure less than 800 bags a day. This has pushed the farmers to pile up the paddy and wait for their turn for several days leading to the decay of the crops.
Farmers say that the more the bribe amount, the faster the procurement by staff and the person can bypass seniority. Sources said at least 2 lakh tonnes of paddy has accumulated in front of DPCs and the farmers fear that the paddy would lose weight as the paddy is exposed to cold nights and hot days. Thus at least 2.50 kg of paddy would be reduced in each bag.