Technology the game-changer as Uttar Pradesh reaches rice milestone

By Brajendra K Parashar
Uttar Pradesh has made the fastest delivery of custom milled rice (CMR) to the Centre, saving around ₹1300 crore as interest burden and eliminating the possibilities of malpractices that millers often indulged in by delaying the delivery of processed rice to the state government, officials aware of the issue said.

Application of technology for automatic allotment of paddy to genuinely performing rice mills and elimination of discretion and human interference in the whole process is believed to be the game- changer this year.

Custom milled rice is manufactured by milling paddy that the state government procures at the minimum support price (MSP) from farmers. The government gives the procured paddy to mills, which are supposed to deliver CMR to the government by March-April. The rice received from mills is finally handed over the Centre. It is only after the final CMR delivery that the Centre reimburses money already spent by a state in purchasing paddy from farmers.

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“We have already delivered 9 lakh MT of CMR to the Centre and the remaining quantity of the same will also be delivered by March 2,” principal secretary, food and civil supplies, Veena Kumari Meena said.

This, she claimed, was the fastest CMR delivery by any state in India.

“Earlier, we kept on delivering to the Centre till as late as October because of which our money remained blocked and the interest burden continued to mount,” she said.

“Use of technology in allotment of paddy to deserving mills did the trick,” she emphasised.

Commissioner, food and civil supplies, Sourabh Babu said the government made a lot of technological interventions that not only curbed various malpractices prevalent in the procurement chain but also ensured fast delivery of CMR from mills and then to the Centre.

“A new provision in the software, for example, ensured that paddy allocation to mills was done automatically on merit without any human interference and this helped. Uttar Pradesh is the first state to do this,” he explained.

Paddy allocation to manufacture CMR was made among 1800 mills.

People aware of the issue said that vested interests tried their best to throw a spanner in the government’s plan to introduce the new system of automatic selection of rice mills for paddy allotment.

Earlier, allotment was made manually by the department’s inspectors who used their discretion for the purpose.

“Often, deliberately or otherwise, paddy was allotted disproportionately to mills, many of which were not able to do the job on time due to lack of capacity,” said an official.

“Many mills also indulged in bungling and malpractices. There was always the possibility for the millers to sell the undelivered rice in the open market at higher rates, and deliver the rice of the earlier season to FCI at the current higher market price,” he said.

Arun Kumar Singh, who retired as additional commissioner (marketing) three months ago, said timely delivery of CMR to the Centre will help the government save hundreds of crores of rupees as interest that it had to pay to lending banks.

“Various government agencies have to take loan from banks to buy paddy or wheat from farmers at MSP. While the government pays farmers promptly after purchase, the Centre reimburses bills only after delivery of CMR. Delay in CMR delivery blocks the cash flow and increases interest burden,” he said.

“Quality issues also cropped up when CMR was delivered to the Centre after the rains,” he added.

Some other reforms were also made during the last one-two years to eliminate role of middlemen in the procurement system to ensure that only genuine farmers avail of MSP and they got quick payments to their account. These steps include introduction of Aadhaar-based farmer registration system, integration of land records, verification of bank accounts, biometric authenticated procurement, biometric authentication of farmers and installation of dusters at all the procurement centres.

“The impact has been huge in terms of proper identification of farmers, weeding out of middlemen, control on disproportionate procurement, proper utilization of funds, faster payment of MSP, real-time monitoring of purchase and payments and purchase of good quality stuff,” Singh said.

This article has been republished from The Hindustan Times.