Mumbai: Mahrashtra’s APMC (agricultural produce market committee) reforms have come despite political opposition and have given the government confidence to do more, says chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Maharashtra is witnessing some key reforms in agriculture marketing. How would you define the change?
We have clearly established a break from the past, which is a big move for the farmers and consumers in the state. In the past, the vegetables and fruits had to be brought to the APMC market yards, auctioned and put into the multi-tier system before they reached the end consumer. This system involved multiple handling, which not only damaged the crop but also resulted in price appreciation due to several duties and levies added along the supply chain. But traders had started forming cartels and exploiting this system. So, as a result of this cartelization inside APMC, traders who are not licensed to operate inside APMC started creating a parallel system outside. Both these markets—APMC and outside APMC—did not benefit the farmer because they were trader-driven. So, what we have done now is specify the jurisdiction of APMC markets.
How would the legislative change benefit the farmer?
Now there are no restrictions on farmers, farmers-producers’ organizations, cooperatives and farm produce companies on who they can sell their produce to. In this new system, the farmers are the aggregators in the sense they have to come together, form groups, aggregate their produce and costs, and sell at the designated farmer-consumer markets. Most importantly, farmers get paid immediately at the market itself and all transactions are in cash. This did not happen at the APMC markets. We have opened one farmer-consumer market in Mumbai and I am happy that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has agreed to provide three more locations for similar markets.
Why is the process of reforms slow in Maharashtra?
Because there has been political opposition to reforms. The Model Act, which was passed in 2006, was not implemented in letter and spirit. Most APMCs in Maharashtra are ruled by the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party. The NCP, in particular, has all along resisted these reforms because it fears it will break its hegemony over APMC markets. After coming to power, we decided to give this sector one hard look to see what ails the sector and why reforms are not happening. I personally looked at several models being implemented in other states. The Karnataka model is noteworthy and it has carried out a good set of reforms. We have learnt a lot from the Karnataka model.
The Congress, especially your predecessor Prithviraj Chavan, says you are wrong in claiming the reforms as your own initiative.
I am not claiming that we have initiated these reforms. Chavan is right when he says the reforms were initiated when the Congress was leading the alliance government in Maharashtra. But I would like to ask him why he did not go ahead with the reforms. To be fair, Chavan wanted to carry out these reforms but he could not withstand the enormous pressure put by the NCP. As I said, the NCP created roadblocks when we picked up from where Chavan had left. But the difference between our regime and the previous regime is that we knew that the NCP would create problems, but we still went ahead and carried out the reform. We did not succumb to the NCP pressure. This reform has given us lot of confidence to take up even bigger reforms.