THOOTHUKUDI: A mandatory ‘caste category’ entry introduced in point of sale (PoS) machines in fertilizer shops for getting fertilizer subsidies has enraged Tamil Nadu farmers. In a software update for PoS machines, known as version 3.2, the department of fertilizer (DoF) working under the union ministry of chemicals and fertilizers has added five features FIR-FMR (Finger Image Record-Finger Minutiae Record), buyers’ category, 40kg bag unit option, nano urea option, and cash and the cashless option to improve subsidy payments under Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) and delivery of fertilizer to farmers.
Under the buyers’ category, as per the new update, caste details of buyers/farmers must be recorded under the entry ‘sale to farmer’ in the PoS for getting DBT. The caste options under the head are General, Other Backward Class (OBC), Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST). “It is mandatory to select one of these options at the time of fertilizer sale”, says a notification issued by the DoF dated February 21.
Karisal Boomi Vivasayigal Sangam president A Varadharajan said people from all castes are engaged in agriculture. It has come as a big shock to know that farmers’ caste details have to be mandatorily entered into PoS machines for getting fertilizer subsidy. “It raises the question as to whether subsidy would be decided based on caste in the future,” he said.
‘Caste-seeking feature must be removed’
It may affect subsidies for middle-class and poor farmers. The centre must remove the feature immediately, he said. A fertiliser merchant confirmed that they have received the update in the app. The union government introduced direct benefit transfer (DBT) for fertiliser subsidies in October 2016.
The sale of all subsidised fertilisers to farmers is made through Point of Sale (PoS) devices installed at retail outlets, both government and private, and beneficiaries are identified through Aadhaar cards, KCC, and voter IDs. About 2.60 lakh PoS devices have been installed across the country.