Talking to TOI, State Rice Miller Association president, Yogesh Agarwal said that as per government policy, two months custom milling was mandatory in Nov last, which barred the sale of rice made through private custom milling units during this period. However, the government modified the policy last week back and has extended the mandatory period to six months, which would hit the rice millers financially, he said.
Asserting that this was not acceptable to the Association, Yogesh said if the government does not revert to it's old policy, they would be forced to go on an indefinite strike. According to the Secretary of the of the Association, Pramod Jain in last fiscal, 5 lakh tons of paddy was damaged due to improper storage facilities and government was pressurizing them now to use the same for custom milling.
"They expect us to provide superior quality of rice from damaged paddy", he said adding that wasn't possible. He also alleged that the FCI had not paid over Rs six crore of transportation charges for 2012-13 and state government was not doing anything about it, he said.
However, officials in food and civil supplies department said that we have sent the paddy for test milling and only if the product meets the criteria, custom milling would be undertaken.
When contacted, Principal Secretary, Food and Civil Supplies, Vikas Sheel, said he had not received any notice of indefinite strike so far from the association. However, he was candid in saying that the government would not succumb to any pressure tactics. "It will be their loss, not our", he said adding that rice millers in the state were being paid Rs 35 per quintal (including Rs 10 received from the centre), as compared to only Rs 10 in other states.
Officials in food and civil supplies department claimed that the strike would not impact any of the government's social welfare schemes. "We have enough stocks to fulfil our commitment of Rs 1 per kg of rice for the next six months", they said.