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Chandigarh, (Gurpreet) ; On the directions of Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh in view of the early and immediate start of procurement season, Punjab Chief Secretary Ms. Vini Mahajan on Saturday reviewed the state’s preparedness for Paddy procurement season, slated to start from September 27 to November 30, 2020.

Presiding over a high-level review meeting of Paddy Procurement Committee for Kharif season-2020, Ms. Vini Mahajan directed the concerned departments to ensure the social distancing to avoid the spread of COVID-19 and that procurement be made in a staggered manner as farmers will enter the mandis with passes issued to them 72 hours advance and only one trolley will be allowed on one pass. Mandi yards have been marked with 30ft X 30Ft blocks to maintain the social distance.

Punjab Chief Secretary said that a total 4019 procurement centres have been set up, which include 152 main yards, 283 sub-yards, 1436 purchase centres, 524 temporary yards and 1624 mills. She also directed the Punjab Mandi Board and Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department to explore possibilities to increase the number of centres to over 4500 to ensure hassle-free, smooth and timely procurement of paddy crop. She stressed that alternative procurement centres should be identified to divert arrivals if any centre is sealed due to COVID-19.

Directing the procurement agencies to ensure the lifting of procured paddy within 48 hours of weighment, the Chief Secretary said that Deputy Commissioners will be overall in-charge of Procurement Operations and Mandi Board will start issuing of passes from September 29, 2020. Check-points would be set up and only one farmer or representative with valid pass to be allowed to enter mandis and a person showing dry cough/respiratory symptoms and fever must not be allowed at these check-points. She instructed the Mandi Board to make arrangements for 50,000 tarpaulins to save the grain in case of rain.

The Chief Secretary said that Punjab Mandi Board solicited the services of 3195 Guardians of Governance (GoGs) in this procurement season. The GoGs would monitor and enforce safety and sanitization protocols, with special focus on social distancing and maintain a hygienic environment in all the mandis.

Urging the farmers to bring the ripen and dry crop to mandis for smooth and hassle-free procurement, the Chief Secretary asked the Deputy Commissioners to ensure that combine harvesters are sanitized with Sodium Hypochlorite solution and no combine should be allowed to run after allowed time. She also called upon farmers to download ‘COVA App’ to get real time information about COVID cases.

Additional Chief Secretary Development Mr. Anirudh Tewari apprised the Chief Secretary that 30 line Mandi Board Control Room would be set up with one line for each district and it would be functional immediately for smooth procurement. District level Control Room will be set up under Deputy Commissioners for coordination with Mandi Board and Procurement Agency. He further informed that Market Committee would arrange 1123 hand free water dispensers and soaps, 30,000 litres of sanitizer, 1.5 lac masks and fumigate mandis with 13 lac litres of Sodium Hypochlorite to contain the spread of the COVID, besides making available drinking water and clean toilets for farmers and laborers. Arthias and Procurement Agencies have also been asked to make the arrangements for soap, sanitizers and mask for farmers and labour and staff. Social distancing would be practiced during harvesting, loading paddy, in mandi operations, he added.

To ensure zero tolerance towards the defaulters for residue burning, Ms. Vini Mahajan directed all the concerned departments to make elaborate arrangements to curb the menace of stubble burning and no combine harvester should be allowed to run without Super SMS attached.  She directed the Deputy Commissioners to ensure Cluster Officers/ Village Level Nodal Officers to be appointed to stop this hazardous practice, besides appointing a SP rank officer as (Police Department) Nodal Officer in district. She also underlined the need to close coordination of DCs and SSPs to initiate strict and swift action against violators.

Stressing on active involvement of department of Rural Development and Panchayat, Cooperation, School Education and Anganwari workers in the awareness campaign, she directed to initiate the massive awareness campaign to sensitize farmers about the ill effects of residue burning.

The meeting was attended by DGP, Punjab Mr. Dinkar Gupta, Principal Secretary Finance Mr. KAP Sinha, Principal Secretary Transport K. Siva Prasad, Principal Secretary/Chief Minister Mr. Tejveer Singh, Principal Secretary Industry and Commerce Mr. Alok Shekhar, MD Warehouse Mr. Vivek Pratap Singh, MD Markfed Mr. Varun Roojam, MD Punsup Mr. Dilraj Singh, Food and Civil Supplies Director Mrs. Anindita Mitra, Secretary Punjab Mandi Board  Mr. Ravi Bhagat and all the Deputy Commissioners, Commissioners of Police & SSPs and other senior officers of the state government.