The Kerala High Court on Tuesday directed the Department of Civil Supplies in consultation with the Labour and Rehabilitation Department to take a decision on the plea of farmers to reduce the cost of carrying paddy to procurement centres.
The bench led by Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque was hearing two writ petitions filed by Padasekhara Smithies and paddy cultivators in Palakkad District with regard to levy of charges by contractors towards loading paddy into lorries.
The Government of Kerala has implemented the paddy procurement scheme and entrusted the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation (KSCSC) as an implementing agency for paddy procurement. It formulated certain guidelines for procurement of paddy from farmers. The guidelines state that farmers have to bring produce to the procurement centre determined by the paddy marketing officer.
The petitioner’s counsel submitted that different rates were being charged from the farmers and is not uniform. It was also submitted that as per guidelines, the farmers are not bound to pay such charges to the contractors.
The High Court on 16.03.2016 had passed an interim order directing,
“The petitioners will have to carry paddy up to the storage point as per Ext.P5. However, the loading charges, thereafter, shall be borne by the Civil Supplies Corporation. It is open for the Corporation to ensure that either the contractor pays the loading charges or pay the loading charges by the Corporation and recover the same from the contractors in accordance with the agreement.”
Thereafter, alleging non-compliance of the order, contempt cases were filed. Taking note of the different issues pertaining to the paddy procurement, this Court has directed the Paddy Marketing Officer to formulate issues and file a report. Report of the Paddy Marketing Officer was submitted on 12.11.2020. After highlighting the issues, the Paddy Marketing Officer was of the view that the payment of charges by the farmers for loading paddy to the vehicles of miller can be avoided by notifying the procurement centres. It was also opined that the excess charges by the headload workers can be avoided, if the Government notifies uniform charges.
The Court observed that as per the guidelines, the farmers are duty bound to give paddy either to the procurement centre or other places. Further there is no authorised procurement centre and no calculation of the distance involved for carrying the products by each farmers.
The Court further observed that the entire idea of entrusting the KSCSC was taking note of the welfare of the farmers. Hence the bench was of the view that the Government must ensure that the burden on the farmers is minimized to the maximum extent possible.
The Court, therefore, directed the Secretary to the Government, Department of Civil Supplies Corporation, to take a decision in the matter, within a period of one month, after hearing the petitioners in both writ petitions as well as authorised officials of Civil Supplies Corporation and representatives of contractors.