Fertiliser-Aadhaar link: Punjab farmers fear red tape, black sale

Despite reluctance of dealers and farmers, the machines have been installed at 90% sales points, including 3,500 cooperative societies, say officials. In all, 8,870 POS machines are to be installed. 


Farmers in Punjab have a new worry. Mandatory point-of-sale (POS) machines through which fertilisers will be sold from December 1 mandate linking of all transactions with Aadhaar numbers of farmers who make the purchase. This means more red tape and black marketeering at jacked-up prices, fear farmers, even as the Union government insists the Aadhaar link will check pilferage of the subsidised fertilisers.

“We don’t know how things will work in the coming rabi season,” said Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of a faction of the Bhartiya Kisan, “With so much paper work now, dealers will harass farmers and it will lead to sale in the black market.”

An officer of the state agriculture directorate agreed that such a system will mean “huge burden” on farmers.

The Union agriculture ministry mandated these machines as industrial units apparently take away large amounts of urea with their staff posing as farmers. This fertiliser is then smuggled to Nepal and Bangladesh. Every year, Punjab is the leading consumer of fertiliser in India — 25 lakh tonnes of urea and 8 lakh tonnes of DAP.

Despite reluctance of dealers and farmers, the machines have been installed at 90% sales points, including 3,500 cooperative societies, say officials. In all, 8,870 POS machines are to be installed.

“Farmer is already passing through a tough phase of financial crunch. Such norms will make the vocation very tough in the current scenario,” Rajewal said.

Only the first step

Sources in the state government, however, said the Centre is working on a long-term policy of a three-tier system for sale of fertilisers — Aadhaar is the first stage — to know who’s buying the fertiliser. Next, land record will be checked to know where the fertiliser is used, and then the soil card will be cross-checked to see if the field actually needs the fertiliser or not.

State chief fertiliser inspector Gurjeet Singh Brar told HT that the farmers’ concern is genuine, but the fertiliser distribution system will be “as smooth as always, even with the POS machines”. It will rather check pilferage and would turn out beneficial, he added.

DBT to come?

There is also some mulling over direct benefit transfer (DBT) of the subsidy into bank accounts of farmers two months after the purchase, said sources. “But the difference between actual price of fertiliser and the subsidised rates is huge, so farmers can’t pay the actual cost,” said Nek Singh Khokh, a progressive farmer from Nabha.

An officer of the state agriculture directorate agreed that such a system will mean “huge burden” on farmers. “But it’s not coming in the near future. It requires a lot of preparation,” the officer said.