Farmers' cheques bounce in Bihar



Patna: Ashok Pandey, a farmer in Bihar, is worried after a Rs 143,000 cheque given by a state agency for his paddy crop bounced twice last one month. He is feeling cheated as the government had announced that farmers would be paid at the earliest for their paddy.

After a bumper paddy crop this kharif season, Pandey was a happy man.

"I was upbeat about selling paddy for good money but the cheque given by the state food corporation bounced," said Pandey, a resident of Kudra in Kaimur district.

Another farmer, Jai Prakash Upadhyay, is also worried for the same reason. "A cheque of Rs 171,000 given to me by the (state) food corporation on February 16 bounced," he said.

Pandey and Upadhyay are among hundreds of farmers across Bihar who deposited their cheques in banks but these bounced.

It is also an embarrassment for the state government.

Bihar Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Shyam Rajak said last month: "We have directed officials to deposit the amount in the bank account of farmers within 72 hours of procurement."

Pradip Kumar, managing director of the state food corporation, said everything would be sorted out within a week.

"Cheques given to farmers would not bounce in the next one week as money would be deposited in the banks next week," Kumar said.

He admitted that due to shortage of money in their bank accounts, dozens of cheques given to farmers bounced.

So far Bihar has procured nearly 21 lakh tonnes of paddy, with a target of 30 lakh tonnes, officials on Friday said.

Rajak said paddy procurement will continue till April 30. "We are sure to achieve a record target of 30 lakh tonnes of procurement this year."

After two years of successive drought, a bumper paddy crop this season has come as a huge relief to millions of farmers in Bihar.

"This year Bihar has produced over 70 lakh tonnes of paddy," Rajak said.

According to the minimum support price announced by the Central government, farmers will get Rs 1,080 per quintal of paddy -- up from last year's price of Rs 1,010.

The government has purchased six crore gunny bags worth Rs 200 crore to achieve the paddy procurement target, an official said.

Government agencies involved in procurement had till last week complained of scarcity of gunny bags.

"It was found true and the government decided to purchase gunny bags to remove any hurdles," a Food and Consumers Affairs Department official said.

IANS