Bengalís paddy cash transfer falters

Farmers in Bengal

Launched a year ago, farmers not availing it as they don't have bank accounts

While the UPA government is banking heavily on implementation of the cash transfer policy for centrally- sponsored schemes so the beneficiaries could benefit, the Trinamool Congress government's "cash transfer" scheme for paddy procurement has met with several hurdles despite claims of success.

The Trinamool government abandoned the previous Left Front government's model of paddy procurement by paying farmers in cash. It introduced a system of paying the crop value through cheques ó a method almost similar to the UPA government's policy of cash transfer directly to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.

A year has passed since the new procurement policy was put into effect in West Bengal but it has come to light that the system has not changed the fortune of a majority of small and marginal farmers. The Reason: Most of the farmers want to be paid in cash instead of cheques because of complication involved in banking operation and their ignorance about it. Though the state government claimed that almost 98 per cent of the farmers have opened bank accounts, farmers' organisations and rice millers have a different story to tell.

"Bank branches are not available always in all villages. Therefore farmers, who spend most of their time in fields, do not want to travel a long distance go to banks. They know little about banking operation. Farmers need cash for quick harvest. If given bank cheques, they have to wait for money as cheques need time to be encashed. What we have seen is that because of these reasons, farmers have negative impression about the new government's paddy procurement policy," says Nripen Chowdhury, the state secretary of CPM- affiliated Sara Bharat Krishak Sabha.

During Left Front rule, farmers used to come to rice mills and sell their produce against cash payments. "Now, for getting cash, they are selling paddy to middlemen at price lower than the minimum support price (MSP), which is currently Rs 1,250 per tonne," Chowdhury says.

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