MP plans to rent out space in mandis to private sector
The Madhya Pradesh government plans to enlist the private sector to develop shopping complexes, medical clinics, petrol pumps, and fertilizer and seed centres in the government-run markets where farmers used to sell their produce, a senior official said.
The Madhya Pradesh State Agricultural Marketing Board suffered a dip in revenue to ₹132 crore in the three months ended December from ₹256 crore in the same period last year after the Centre in September passed the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020 that allowed the sale of agricultural produce outside government-run mandis (markets).
The mandis record highest revenue during harvest months of April to June and from October to December. There are 259 such mandis and 298 sub-mandis in Madhya Pradesh.
“The tax on sale of produce in agriculture markets has been reduced and, according to the new farm law, farmers are free to sell their crop outside [government-run] markets so there is no chance of revival of 259 mandis in the future,” said a board official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
He said the state planned to enlist private entities and offer them land in markets to develop retail shopping complexes, petrol pumps, fertilizer and seed centres and so on. “Similarly, the government will give some area to NGOs [non-government organisations] to run medical clinics for farmers,” he said.
Another official, who also requested anonymity, said the objective is to motivate farmers to keep coming to mandis. “Services to farmers such as buying seeds and health goods will be provided at subsidised rates through a smart card to be issued by farmers’ welfare and agriculture development department,” the second official said.
On the proposal to allow petrol pumps inside mandis, the officials said it would be a viable option because most agricultural markets are on the highways or close by and they would help government earn revenue.
Reacting to the proposal, MP Mandi Board Association president BB Faujdar said: “The government is heading towards privatization of Mandis. This plan might be feasible for category A Mandis, which are bigger in size, but what about small grain mandis which are running on government land on lease or rent? This means the government will close small mandis.”
Farmers are not enthused by the plan. A farm leader from Sehore, Bhagwan Meena, said: “It is good that the government is thinking about revamping mandis but this is foolish that farmers will go to mandis for shopping. Farmers have no problem in selling their crops in mandis, but it’s traders who don’t want to come to the mandis to purchase crops. I don’t think this plan will work.”
Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee spokesperson Ajay Singh Yadav said the government was trying to privatize the mandis.
“This model is not to revive the mandis, but this is the first step towards privatization of mandis. We will oppose this move,” said Yadav.
Farmers’ welfare and agricultural development minister Kamal Patel said: “If farmers are getting benefit from the new farm law, we have made a plan of inviting businessmen to revive mandis in MP. We are renting space, not whole mandis. The retail shops will be opened in the mandis and farmers will get everything from a needle to tractor and i.e., at subsidized rate like army men, who purchase things from the army canteens at much lower rates.”