Centre releases Rs 17,994 cr CCL for wheat procurement in Punjab

The central government has released an amount of Rs 17,994.21 crore towards Cash Credit Limit (CCL) for Punjab’s Rabi (wheat) procurement, a state government spokesman said here on Thursday.

The Union Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in separate letters to the Punjab Principal Secretary (Finance), said the Centre has decided to release the CCL immediately in view of the urgent need to procure wheat.

This was following early arrival of the grain in the mandis (wholesale markets) and the assurance of the State Bank of India (SBI).

The CCL release is subject to certain conditions as laid down by the RBI.

The CCL has been released for the Rabi season, upto the end of April, on the condition that the state government would regularise, at the earliest, the outstanding balance in the food credits account of the Kharif Marketing Season 2016.

The RBI had in 2016 refused to release the CCL of over Rs 20,000 crore for wheat purchase, asking the then Punjab government headed by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to submit details of a huge gap of Rs 31,000 crore in procurement payments and the actual stocks.

Badal’s son-in-law Adaish Pratap Singh was then the Punjab Food and Civil Supplies Minister.

The gap in the procurement payment and actual stocks happened mainly during the rule of the Akali Dal-BJP government, which was in power from 2007 to March 2017.

The CCL money is used to pay farmers for the crops the government agencies procure twice annually — wheat in April-May and paddy in October-November.

Wheat procurement in Punjab started on April 1.

“The SBI will release funds on submission of Letter of Consent under Article 293(3) of the Indian Constitution, the RBI informed the Punjab government through its letter,” the state government spokesman said.

“The RBI has directed the state government to ensure that all its food credit accounts are always backed by fully paid stock value as per norms.”

“The state government would also be required to route all its requests to the Government of India for availing CCL through the state Finance Department,” he added.

The CCL clearance follows Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s pitch with the centre in the matter.

Amarinder Singh had met Finance Minister Arun Jaitely in March on the issue.