Amid swelling number of coronavirous positive patients (39), Punjab has allowed wheat harvesting and marketing of horticulture produce by farmers besides suspending all toll collection on the road across the state till the lockdown.
Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh on Thursday ordered the concerned departments to allow harvesting and marketing of horticulture produce by farmers, with necessary restrictions relating to Covid-19 precautions.
The wheat harvesting will commence in mid-April on account of weather conditions but the government assured smooth procurement and timely payments. The wheat harvesting is delayed due to weather conditions and is likely to start only by April 12-15 in the state, the Chief Minister said after reviewing arrangements for harvesting of potato and wheat crop.
Proper harvesting arrangements were being put in place for harvesting and storage of potato crop, said Captain Amarinder, adding that the government would also ensure smooth procurement and release of timely payment to wheat farmers.
An official spokesperson informed that the CM has directed officials of Horticulture Department, Punjab Agro Industries Corporation and Punjab Mandi Board to work out the modalities, in coordination with the respective district officials, to allow farmers to harvest and transport their horticulture produce for seamless marketing without putting them to any more hardship.
A spokesperson of the Chief Minister’s office said that a detailed list of District Mandi Officers, along with their contact numbers, has been issued by Punjab Mandi Board so that farmers can contact the concerned officer.
The Additional Chief Secretary Development-cum-Financial Commissioner, Horticulture has also issued an advisory asking all Deputy Commissioners to grant the relevant permissions/relaxation to the farm labour and farmers for harvesting and transporting the horticulture produce, including vegetables and fruits to the markets, as well as cold storage.
Underlining the importance of maintaining regular supply chain of essential commodities of horticulture produce in these critical times, he directed that the necessary restrictions relating to the health advisories of social distancing, use of masks, hand-wash etc may be included in the permissions. The Deputy/Assistant Directors Horticulture have also been directed to assist the Deputy Commissioners for this purpose.
Director, Horticulture Shailender Kaur has provided a comprehensive list of farmers who require labour for harvesting and need transportation of their produce to the markets as well as cold stores. Also, 69 FPOs comprising nearly 600 farmers have been contacted and assured full cooperation from the government in this regard.
The fruit growers, especially in the citrus belt of Hoshiarpur, Fazilka, Sri Muktsar Sahib and Bathinda districts, the potato growers in the districts of Jalandhar, Kapurthala, SBS Nagar, Moga, Ludhiana and Bathinda districts and vegetable growers in the state were facing problems in harvesting and marketing due to the orders of the National Disaster Management Authority on March 24, regarding measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.
However, it may be recalled that Para 4 of the subsequent guidelines dated 24th March, 2020 issued by the Home Secretary, Government of India, in his capacity of Chairperson, National Executive Committee of the Authority, exempted the shops dealing with food, groceries, fruits and vegetables, along with cold storage and warehousing facilities from the commercial and private establishments.
Meanwhile, Public Works Minister Punjab Vijay Inder Singla, on Friday, announced that the government has decided to suspend tolling operations at all state Toll Plazas of Punjab till the period of lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus. Singla said that as many as 23 toll plazas were operational under state government in Punjab.
Curfew is in force in the state and only emergency vehicles are plying on the roads which are required to move rapidly. He added that it has been decided that the situation arising out of the said epidemic shall be construed as a Non-Political Force Majeure event in terms of the Concession Agreement.
Singla also puts PWD rests houses across Punjab at the disposal of health department by allowing them to use these as isolation centres in any crucial situation. He added that education and public works department has extended its full support to the health department and even the school buildings could also be evacuated immediately after the requisition of administration.