Apni mandis were introduced with the aim to benefit small farmers and consumers by eliminating middlemen, but with the authorities looking the other way, local vendors have seized control of these markets. One such mandi is held every day at different designated places across the city, but the operators are mostly the same, thus monopolising the business.
Most of these vendors buy vegetables and fruits from the Sector 26 grain market in Chandigarh and sell these to residents at higher prices. Only a handful of farmers come to sell their products, that too in the evening.
Efforts being made by the local administration and Haryana State Agricultural Marketing Board (HSAMB) to improve the situation have not been fruitful. In the past, HSAMB made unsuccessful attempts to check local vendors selling products in mandis. Mandi development officer Raj Kumar Beniwal said they were chalking out a plan to ensure that only farmers sell their products at apni mandis.
Consumers fleeced in absence of rate list, checks on weights
As per norms, the sale of fruits and vegetables is permitted at around 25% less than the prevailing rates in the retail market. Boards displaying rates of vegetables and fruits have to be installed at each mandi. However, at most apni mandis, rate list is missing and at some where boards are put up, rates are not mentioned. In the absence of a rate list, there are no uniform prices and the vendors sell products at prices just marginally below the rates in the retail market. Also, in the absence of checks on weights being used by the vendors, consumers end up being shortchanged. The vendors also trick the residents by displaying their products under bright coloured - usually green and red - umbrellas and bright lights that make the vegetables and fruits look fresher than they really are.
Residents forced to scramble through congested, messy space
At each mandi, around 500 vendors set up their stalls, leaving little space for consumers to walk. The shoppers are welcomed by dirt, garbage strewn all over the place, and foul smell being emitted by rotting waste. The situation worsens during monsoons due to lack of poor sanitation. Flouting the norms, vendors selling eatables and other wares, too, set up their stalls, adding to the chaos. In May last year, the administration had imposed a ban on sale of items other than vegetables and fruits in mandis. The decision was accepted by mandi association president Goverdhan. Despite that, vendors selling snacks, shoes, utensils, garments and grocery items can be seen encroaching upon the space.
Traffic comes to a standstill in adjoining areas
Traffic congestion and lack of parking space add to the chaos. Traffic flow is obstructed frequently as visitors park their vehicles on the road, leading to jams. As per norms, the mandi site must have enough space for parking and should not be located in an area adjoining any main road. Taking a senior note of conditions prevailing at apni mandis in the tricity, the Punjab and Haryana high court had last year asked the Chandigarh, Panchkula and SAS Nagar authorities to take corrective steps.
How authorities can improve the situation
Encourage farmers to sell their products at apni mandis
Ensure consumers get vegetables at rates fixed by the market board
Fine vendors selling fruits and vegetables at higher rates
Deploy police personnel to ensure smooth flow of traffic
Place an adequate number of dustbins in the market
Deploy board and MC officials to ensure mandi sites are cleaned properly