A section of farmers from the district are of the view that the number of direct purchase centres (DPCs) for paddy, which are being set up by the district administration, are insufficient. Even the ones functioning are mismanaged, leaving space for corruption, they say.
M. Mani, a farmer from Thumbaipatti, said that a large group of farmers from five surrounding villages had finally received order to establish a DPC in Thumbaipatti after staging protest and mounting pressure on the district administration after having submitted a petition on January 13, requesting the setting up of a centre.
“This year, there has been sizeable production of paddy. In places where people have only produced 10 tonnes of paddy, we have been able to produce 15 tonnes. The administration does not have enough manpower or funds in circulation. Should they not actively work with the farmers to set up procurement centres to meet the demand?,” he asked.
N. Palanisamy of Tamil Nadu Sugarcane Farmers Association, who raised the issue during the farmer’s grievance meeting held in January, said that since the administration had not set up an adequate number of DPCs, farmers were selling paddy at rice commission mandis. These mandis, in turn, were selling the paddy for higher rates at the DPCs. Mr. Palanisamy said that farmers who rarely made good production each year had got the rare opportunity to get some additional income this year. “The administration should helpi them, but is clearly not taking any proactive steps,” he said.
While the DPCs were located at an interval of half to one kilometre in Chellampatti, people in blocks like Kottampatti and Melur had to travel at least 10-15 km, carrying their produce, weighing tonnes, he said.
Mr. Mani and S. Jeyakumar, a farmer from Vadipatti, said that the DPCs collected between ₹40 and ₹50 for each bag as ‘labour charges’. “We have no choice but to part with the amount. Ideally, the Tamil Nadu government must pay for the labour and transportation expenses,” Mr. Mani said.
The farmers added that the additional need to procure a signed document from the Village Administrative Officer (VAO) specifying the exact amount of paddy produced and sold to the DPC, was a long and exhaustive task. “While some VAOs are cooperative, many others take their own time to get back, delaying the process even further for the farmers,” he says.
An official from the Civil Supplies department said that the Collector had issued an order to open 65 DPCs across the district and more had been opened eventually on request through petitions. “The process is systematic and will take time according to the rules. We have officials from the civil supplies department monitoring the personnel in each centre to ensure that no sort of under-the-table dealings take place,” he added.