New Mandi Law Proves Costly for Madhya Pradesh’s Farmers
Bhopal: Mandi ke bahar ek vyapari ko becha hai to pichle panch mahino se paise ke liye daur raha hun, FIR bhi kiya, per paise nahi mila, (I sold my produce to a trader outside the mandi and have been running around since five months for payment. I even lodged an FIR but to no avail), says Manoj Dhakar (25), one the 13 farmers who say they have been cheated by a trader in Madhya Pradesh’s Guna district.
Hoping to get a better price for their crops aided by the new farm laws enacted by the Madhya Pradesh government, 13 farmers of Jamra village of Guna, like Dhakar, sold their produce worth Rs 20.02 lakh to a trader in June, however, over five months have passed but their wait seems unending.
Such cases of traders vanishing without paying have also propped up in districts like Jabalpur, Gwalior, Balaghat, Barwani and Hoshangabad. In Hoshangabad, Barwani and Jabalpur, the administration came to rescue of the cultivators after Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tweeted, while in Gwalior and Balaghat, the matter is still unresolved.
Dhakar has spent the past over five months running between the offices of the district collector and superintendent of police, seeking their assistance in somehow recovering the Rs 1.20 lakh that Devendra Aggrawal, a trader, who purchased his farm produce in June 9, 2020 owed him.
“Mandi me bechte the to hatho hath paisa mil jata tha. Ab paise nahi milne se 1 lakh rupye ka karz lekar kisani kar raha hun (Had I sold my produce in the mandi, I would have got instant payment. Now, I have had to take a loan of Rs 1 lakh for farming),” says Dhakar, who, for the first time in June, sold his produce outside the mandi premises as the new farm law under the Model Mandi Act, months before the Central government’s farm laws that are seeing widespread farmer protests, was enacted in Madhya Pradesh in May 1.
Another cultivator, Ram Krishn Dhakar, 45, who had sold produce of Rs 8 lakh to the same trader claimed that after purchasing a bulk of 61 quintalsn of coriander (dhaniya) from all 13 farmers, Aggrawal paid Rs 3 lakh cash and gave two cheques of Rs 2 lakh and Rs 1.5 lakh, respectively. But the bank cancelled both the cheques because of signature tallying issues.
“When the police registered a case of cheating (Section 420 of the IPC) upon our complaint, the trader sent goons to my house armed with sticks and rods the following week and threatened our lives if we don’t withdraw the case or sign a settlement,” alleged Ram Krishan, who owns nearly 25 acres of farmland.
“We receive threatening calls from different numbers. We fear for our lives,” he said, adding that all 13 farmers are running from pillar to post for payment despite the fact that the new laws ensure payment within three days for produce sold outside the mandi.
The district administration has failed to track the absconding trader or recover the money even after four months of the compliant being lodged. Although, Aggrawal managed to get bail from the High Court bench of Gwalior, he is on run.
When contacted, Guna district collector Kumar Purushottam said: “It is true that Devendra Aggrawal purchased farm produce worth Rs 20 lakh from 13 farmers and ran away. The trader is from Rajasthan and neither does he own any property in the district nor does his bank account have any money, as it has a balance of Rs 400.”
Purushottam claimed the farmers sold the produce in April and it’s difficult to penalise the trader under the law because they have no agreement. “I’m closely looking into the matter and the administration is trying its best to recover the money,” he added.
However, in their police complaint, the farmers claimed to have sold the produce on June 9.
Owing to the growing cases of cheating cultivators outside the mandi after the new laws came into effect, the State Mandi Board on December 14 issued a circular and asked the joint director of the mandi boards to keep a track of such cases. The board has also issued a form with the circular.
Commenting on the matter, Sandeep Yadav, the Managing Director of the State Mandi Board, said: “The decision has been taken to keep a track of cases of cheating farmers.”
Other unresolved cases
In Gwalior, 24 farmers have registered a complaint with the sub- divisional magistrate (SDM) that a trader who had purchased produce worth Rs 10 lakh was “untraceable” since the past couple of months.
An FIR was filed and the district administration is in the process of seizing the trader’s house. The police have also begun a search of his property in Ahmedabad.
In Balaghat, a group of paddy farmers have approached the police in Lanchi tehsil, alleging that a rice mill owner was not paying them for their produce. The SDM formed a panel on December 13, to resolve the issue, but with the traders absconding, the process to seize property is now underway.
The resolved cases
The first resolved case, which was mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his radio broadcast. Mann Ki Baat, is from Madhya Pradesh’s Barwani district.
On October 10, in tribal-dominated Barwani district, a farmer from Maharashtra’s Dhule district complained to the SDM of Panselum tehsil, who had sold 270 quintals of maize to two traders from in July and was waiting for payment of dues amounting to nearly Rs 3.30 lakh. The SDM, Sumer Singh Mujalde, formed a committee and the traders were summoned. Thereafter, the traders cleared the dues in two instalments, and the matter was resolved on November 4, the Indian Express reported.
Another resolved case is from Hoshangabad district.
A Delhi-based firm, identified as Fortune Company, entered into an agreement with rice farmers in Pipariya district to buy their produce at Rs 50 higher than the rate offered in the mandi. But, as the prices soared and touched Rs 2,950 a quintal, the firm’s agents switched off their phones as the date of purchase neared. Later, SDM Pipariya, Nitin Tale, formed a joint committee and the issue was resolved.
The third resolved case from concerns a trader who ran away with the crop without paying Rs 22 lakh to cultivators.
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