The mandis are the hub of corruption, with touts dictating the price of agricultural produce. This is one of the causes for the big price difference between the selling price of agricultural produce and the price paid by consumers.
Before the advent of the private players in the telecom field, the sector was the sole playground of public sector undertakings like BSNL and TN. In the nineties when the IT sector was booming, greenhorns like me were taking the first tentative steps in the new field.
Broadband was a necessity and professionals like me who came from B and C grade cities found maintaining the Broadband connectivity excruciating. Often underground cables were cut and the BSNL workers had to be bribed to do the work. With the reforms in the telecom sector and the advent of private players, everything has changed and the biggest beneficiary is the consumer.
Revocation of the farm bills a watershed moment in Indian history
In this context, the revoking of the farm bills is going to be a watershed moment in Indian history. Once again politics has prevailed over economics. The farm laws were progressive and opened new avenues for the farmers to sell their products besides the official mandis. It would have enabled the farmers to get a better price for their produce.
The mandis are the epitome of corruption and is dominated by touts who decide the price of farm products. This is one of the reasons why the gap between the selling price of the farm produce and the price which the consumers pay is so large. The difference is pocketed by the well-entrenched layers of bureaucracy and middlemen.
APMC introduced in Farm Bill 2020 already in operation
The bill was opposed mostly by the farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Interestingly, a provision to sell produce outside the mandis in the form Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act which the Government of India promulgated in 2003 already exists. This Act is operational in 16 states but most of the farm produce are still being sold in mandis. Therefore, the farm laws are no more different than this law which is already operational in 16 states.
Any farm produce needs an infrastructure where the farm produce is graded, weighed, and stored to be redistributed. Facilities for parking and lodging are also required and since mandis are operating for a long time, all these facilities are available. Allowing farmers to sell their produce outside the mandis does not mean that the mandis will lose their credibility as feared by the farmers. The above infrastructure will take time to be developed at other locations also.
Farmers in many states already selling directly to consumers
In states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, farmers are allowed to sell their vegetables directly to the consumers. These are known in the local lingo as “Weekly Haats” or weekly fares.
Most farmers would like to sell their farm products like wheat, rice, pulses, and oilseeds in wholesale rates. The buyers of these products will be mostly mills and finished food products’ manufacturers like biscuits and malt powder. In Madhya Pradesh, a very good example is the ITC-promoted E-Chaupal where the farmers sell their Soya bean products directly to ITC.
The fear that big corporates will dupe or exploit the farmers is not true in the present time. An alert media and judiciary will ensure that such exploitation never happens. The fears of the farmers are unfounded but our political leaders are more concerned to bake their political dividends than having a real and in-depth discussion on measures to help the farmers.