Chandigarh (Punjab) [India], April 7 (ANI): The Punjab government has set up a 13-member control room at the Mandi Board for coordination and providing logistic support during the ensuing wheat harvesting and marketing season, set to begin on April 15 under a tight blanket of unprecedented security and safety measures to ensure smooth operations amid the COVID-19 clampdown.
Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday again reviewed the arrangements for the Rabi operations via video conference with top officials from various departments, including Food and Civil Supplies, Agriculture, Police, among others.
According to an official statement, the Chief Minister ordered the Food and Agriculture departments to immediately come out with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the Mandis and the purchase centres. He directed the departments to scale up the number of purchasing centres to 4000, from the current 3761, which is already double that of last year.
Health Secretary Anurag Aggarwal informed the CM that guidelines were being prepared to ensure that the Mandis are protected from COVID-19. Farmers and labourers will be checked for influenza-like symptoms, and masks including cloth masks would be made compulsory and multiple hand washing arrangements shall be set up in each Mandi.
During the meeting, the Chief Minister also said that he would also again take up with the Prime Minister the issue of incentives for farmers to encourage them to delay bringing their product to the Mandis in order to prevent overcrowding. The procurement season has already been extended by the state government till June 15, 2020, and the state has sought incentive to farmers bringing in their grain in May and June instead of April.
Earlier today, the Chief Minister wrote to his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee, seeking her personal intervention to revive manufacturing and loading at the jute mills in her state against the pending indents for gunny bales placed by the Government of Punjab.
"This was essential given the emergent situation, to enable smooth procurement of wheat for Central Pool for onward distribution in the country under National Food Security Act and other Public welfare schemes," he said.
Captain Amarinder had pointed out in his letter that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had already provided an exemption from lockdown for the manufacturing units of the packaging of food items, as well as agencies engaged in procurement of agriculture products, including MSP operations. (ANI)