Govt allows free hand to private corporate funding in mandis
In a major decision aimed to revamp the existing mandi system, the government has decided to revise the existing Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act allowing private payers to establish and operate agricultural mandis. The decision, which will undoubtedly have far-reaching impact, has been initiated after consultations with states and the Niti Aayog. There are about 5,000 mandis operational in different states.
According to Addition Secretary (Agriculture) Ashok Dalwai, the model act would be ready in two months, which would in turn be sent to states for adopting it.
In another major decision, the Centre has decided to lift the restriction on private players for getting approval of contract farming through APMC. With this, private players would now not need to go through cumbersome paper works for entering into contract farming of the product of their own choice. According to Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand, the Centre will come out with a model APMC Act soon, incorporating suggestions from states for quick action on reforms.
“In a review meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we explained that the main problem with the agriculture sector is that there has been no reform in this sector for the past 25 years. On his direction, we are going to make 6-7 major reforms in this sector, which would be completed by 2021,” Chand said, adding: “At first, we will bring a revised APMC model Bill which will allow private players to establish their own mandis.”
“The concept behind allowing private players into mandi business is to create a competitive environment aimed at providing better services to farmers. Unless and until farmers get fair price of their produce, their over all development cannot be imagined,” he said. Social activist Nikhil Dey opined that reform in APMC is a welcome move, but it should not be on the cost of the farmers’ interest. “It’s an open secret that mandis are being controlled by private players and by allowing corporates to open their own mandis, the government has protected their interest and not the farmers,” Dey added.
Opposing the move, Ramesh Chandra Lahoti, who heads Grain Merchants’ Association of Bengaluru, said: “Private players enter into any sector with the objective to make it a profitable venture. Even though the guidelines would be uniform for both government-controlled mandis and private ones, what about price regulation? How will the government intervene into the daily affairs of private mandis? It will not help the farmers.”
In the past, states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Haryana have set up ‘apni mandis’ and ‘rythu bazars’ for farmers to sell their produce directly to consumers. But these have hardly brought any relief.