CHANDIGARH: Under 'pressure' from the Union government, the AAP government in Punjab on Wednesday amended the Rural Development Act so that the rural development fund (RDF) could be claimed from the Centre for the paddy procurement season. The central government had mandated the states to make amendments to specify the RDF usage and stop fund diversion for purposes other than development works in rural areas. The state cabinet approved the Punjab Rural Development (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022.
This decision was taken during a cabinet meeting here at the CMO. As a result, the Punjab Rural Development Act, 1987 has been amended in line with the revised principles laid down by the Department of Food and Public Distribution, Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution on February 24, 2020.
It may be recalled that the Union government vide its letter dated October 23, 2020 sent the Provisional Cost Sheet (PCS) for Kharif Marketing Season (KMS) 2020 wherein it does not account for statutory dues of Rural Development Fund (RDF) calculated at @ 3 per cent of MSP. However, the PCS provides that "matters related to deductions from MSP made by the state & utilization of RD Fee for the purpose of development of procurement centre are under scrutiny."
An officer of the Chief Minister’s Office said the RDF shall be spent for the purposes including construction or repair of approach roads to mandis and procurement centres and street lights thereon enabling farmers in transportation of their produce, construction and development of new mandis and development of old and katcha mandis and procurement centres, making arrangements for supply of drinking water and for improving sanitation in the mandis for providing well equipped rest houses/night shelters/sheds for farmers and labour engaged in procurement operations.
Likewise, RDF would also be spent for augmenting storage facilities in mandies to store procured stocks so as to strengthen the procurement and marketing systems in the state, to provide relief to debt stressed farmers of the state to eliminate any possibility of distress sale, development of hardware/software related to procurement and linking of land records, crop survey, bio- authentication of farmers at the mandi which may improve transparency and facilitate the procurement activities, Installation/Purchase of computerized electronic weighbridge or weighment facilities, quality testing equipment, sieving facilities in the mandi/procurement centres and its integration with e-procurement module, automation and mechanization of mandies with facility of cleaning, sorting, drying, analyzing quality of grains, small shipping silo, bag sacking and stitching and for carrying out such purposes which may lead to strengthening of mandies and procurement operations, he said.
Last year, the state government had assured the Centre that it would bring in amendments in the Act with a view to specifying the RDF usage.