Milk farmers are working without pay,Most of those in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region do not have bank accounts

KALABURAGI/BIDAR/Ballari: It has been two weeks since Gangadhar Patil, who runs a milk procurement centre for the co-op society in Ekamba village in Bidar district, has paid his suppliers. Milk farmers come to his doorstep every day seeking their dues.

“After hearing that announcement that Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 500 notes are demonetised, we deposited all our money in the cooperative society. But now we can not withdraw it. The society is not getting new currency notes and it has run out of old Rs. 100 notes. Unless the government releases enough money or allows us to swap old notes for new, we will have to tell farmers to wait,” he said.

Though Karnataka Cooperative Milk Producers’ Federation Ltd (KMF) is making payments to societies online as usual, the milk societies that procure milk at the village level are unable to make weekly payments to milk suppliers due to the shortage of new notes and the restriction on transactions in district co-operative banks.

Over 41,000 small milk producers in the rural areas of the Hyderabad-Karnataka region are forced to manage their households without payment for the last two weeks.

Kalaburagi Milk Union, which covers Bidar, Kalaburagi and Yadgir districts, procures around 57,000 litres of milk a day from around 10,700 farmers and makes payments to milk suppliers on a weekly basis. However, it could not make payments — amounting to about Rs. 1 crore a week — to farmers for the last two weeks.

“As per the Union government’s instructions, a person or cooperative society can draw maximum of Rs. 24,000 a week. It is insufficient to pay all milk suppliers,” said Manohar Kulkarni, Deputy Manager at Kalaburagi Milk Union of KMF, told The Hindu on Friday.

However, the milk societies which had adopted the online mode of payment to suppliers well before the demonetisation of high value notes are at ease. But their number is too small in this region, in contrast to districts in southern Karnataka.

“Many farmers have accounts in banks that do not have facility of Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS). Upon our request, milk farmers have now started opening bank accounts,” Marulu Siddappa, Assistant Manager at Ballari Milk Union of KMF told The Hindu.

(With inputs from Kumar Buradikatti, Rishikesh Bahadur Desai and M. Ahiraj)

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