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Market fraud unfolds as CCI plays truant

Market fraud unfolds as CCI plays truant
Highlights

Even as the cotton growers continue to lose with falling prices, the presence of Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) still eludes at the Market Yard. The nominal intervention by state agency results in traders having a field day. The central government declared Rs 4,100 as minimum support price (MSP) for cotton.

Even as the cotton growers continue to lose with falling prices, the presence of Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) still eludes at the Market Yard. The nominal intervention by state agency results in traders having a field day. The central government declared Rs 4,100 as minimum support price (MSP) for cotton.

Cotton farmers with their produce at the Enumamula Market Yard in Warangal

The CCI is expected to purchase all cotton fitting into the conditions laid down by the Centre. But, unrealistic conditions and the CCI officials colluding with traders while the market committee remains a passive spectator make farmers to resort to distress sale. This is a daily scenario unfolding in all market yards across the state.

As we make a visit to the Enumamula Market Yard in Warangal on November 2, the ugly play of market forces come alive before us. The market officials fixed the price of cotton as Rs 4,030 on this day. But, hardly one to two percent of the cotton was purchased by the traders paying this price.

“About 25,000 bags of cotton, roughly 12,500 quintals of cotton arrived on this day at Enumamula Market Yard,” said A Raju, Secretary of the Market Yard. But, the CCI has purchased only 100 quintals, admits R K Sharma, Chief Cotton purchaser at Warangal Market Yard, which accounts for less than one percent of the total arrivals on the day. Pydipala Yadaiah of Geesukonda mandal said that there was no CCI official to purchase his produce. Though his produce was good, he was offered Rs 3,800 per quintal.

“Due to the difference in price at which CCI has to purchase and the price the trader has paid, farmers at Warangal market yard alone are losing one to two crores of rupees a day,” said Tummera Vishweshwar Rao, member of farmers JAC.

The CCI has to intervene in the market to stabilise the price. But, admits R K Sharma, only 1,000 quintals of cotton was purchased in last 20 days at the Enumamula Market Yard ever since the purchasing season commenced.

Why are farmers not coming to CCI centres but preferring to sell to traders though the price is less? To this question the CCI officer R K Sharma has a curious reply.

"How do I know? Ask farmers or market committee officials,” he quipped. Why couldn’t the market committee impress upon the CCI to make hectic purchases? The market committee officials have their own explanation to offer. “They come under central government. They do not even listen to the Collector. How can we make them purchase," asks A Raju.

“The Warangal Market Yard is considered to be the Asia’s second largest market and the biggest one in Telangana as per market transactions. About 25,000 to 50,000 bags of cotton arrive at the market every day besides chillies, paddy, turmeric and other cash crops,” Raju told The Hans India. Farmers bring their produce to this market form Warangal, Khammam, Karimnagar and Nalgonda districts. At times produce comes from far away districts too, he added.

As the CCI presence eludes at the market, farmers are forced to sell at the price fixed by traders. Farmers allege that traders bring down the price on some pretext or the other. Bandari Rajeshwari of Dharmaram village under Geesukonda Mandal said that traders offered Rs 3,200 per quintal citing that her produce was discoloured. She brought five bags. “Where are our politicians who flock at us at the time of elections? Why are they not seen at market yard? Can’t they not come here to ensure proper price for our produce,” she asked.

The CCI has several conditions to make purchases. The moisture content should not exceed 12 percent. The MSP will be paid only if the moisture content does not exceed 8 percent. The cotton has to be brought in loose form only. The CCI rejects cotton brought in bags. This condition seems to be the main factor driving farmers away from CCI counters.

Moore Saraiah of Kamalapuram in Karimnagar district, who came to market with three bags, said that CCI officials refused to purchase his produce citing that he failed to bring loose cotton. He said that it was not viable for him to engage a vehicle for just three bags of cotton. Even the farmers, who bring more quantity of cotton, are also not confident of CCI purchases.

They fear rejection by the CCI on some grounds or the other, especially citing high moisture content. Kondeti Balaiah of Sagaram in Zaffargadh mandal said that he got Rs 3,950 per quintal for his 20 bags despite the quality of cotton up to CCI standards. The dismal presence of CCI thus fails to infuse confidence among farmers. At 10 am, even as the market yards bustling with activity, the CCI counter wears a deserted look.

Alleges G Prabhakar, who used to be a trader in the past, that the CCI purchases the same cotton from traders when no one is alert, the differential price is shared by traders, officials of CCI and market committee. Investigating agencies are also inquiring into allegations against CCI officials for amassing wealth disproportionate to their known source of income.

Admitting that such malpractices did occur at the market yard in the past, A Raju claims that strict vigil by the market committee could curtail such underhand deals. But, several traders on condition of anonymity told The Hans India that they would sell it outside if the price in the open market is above the MSP or otherwise they would sell it to CCI in farmers’ names.

It may be mentioned here that CBI had seized Rs 30 lakh, three kilos of gold and 30 kilos of silver from the residence of a CCI officer in Warangal on February 12, 2015. He was a purchasing officer at Enumamula Agricultural Market Yard during 2004-2007. The raid was conducted following the High Court orders as part of nation-wide inspections on CCI officials.

Prof K Nageshwar

At Enumamula Market Yard in Warangal

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