The recent suspension of eight staff members at various Direct Purchase Centres (DPCs) in Thanjavur district on charges of committing malpractices in procurement of paddy has brought to the fore the persistent problem faced by farmers in selling their produce at the centres.
Farmers say that despite the direct benefit transfer system, they continue to face demands for money from some staff at the DPCs.
Earlier, when the sale proceeds were paid in cash on the spot, the DPC staff would deduct some money as ‘service charges’ on a per-bag basis.
When the system of crediting the money to the bank accounts was introduced, the ryots welcomed the decision hoping that it would check the problem. On the contrary, the unhealthy practice continued in a different form, alleged Sundara Vimalanathan, district secretary, Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Protection Association. Farmers who agreed to the demands of the staff got priority in measuring the paddy and those who did not were made to fight or wait for their turn, he added.
Some times the issue took a serious turn, Mr. Vimalanathan said, citing an incident in which a farmer of Umayalpuram had reportedly agreed to pay one-third of the money that was demanded by a DPC staff as he felt that the staff manning the centres were paid poorly. But the DPC staff there refused to budge and insisted that unless he paid up, the money due to him would not be credited to his account.
The farmer decided to take up the issue with the TNCSC officials and on coming to know this, one of the DPC staff had threatened him with dire consequences on Thursday night, Mr. Vimalanathan said.
Subsequently, the farmer forwarded his complaint to the senior regional manager, TNCSC.
The TNCSC AITUC labour union State general secretary, Chandrakumar, too said the DPC staff got a paltry sum as wages.