Politics seems to have overpowered common good once again. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has blocked a proposal to de-list vegetables and fruits from the Agricultural Produce Market Committee. MiD DAY had reported on how the state agriculture and marketing board had released a circular, allowing farmers to sell their produce directly to consumers, instead of routing it through wholesale traders (‘Expect a drastic drop in fruit, veg prices, January 8).
The proposal to de-list vegetables and fruits from the APMC would invite ire from the approximately 4,000 mathadi workers as there will be less work and less remuneration for them
This system would’ve meant getting vegetables at significantly lower prices, since the extra middlemen, the APMC traders or wholesalers, would be out of the equation. Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, the minister for agriculture and marketing, had approved the notification.
Incidentally, approximately 4,000 workers at APMC, Vashi are from Karad and surrounding areas in Satara district, which is Chavan’s bastion. The proposal means less work and less remuneration for these workers, and this means inviting their ire and paying a huge political price for the Congress-NCP leaders from the district, said a senior leader from the Democratic Front government.
MiD DAY report. File pic
Chavan is taking cautious steps and has asked Vikhe Patil to hold the execution of the notice. “The workers might react through ballot boxes and its ramifications could be serious, as their family members and relatives are at Karad, Satara and adjoining parts,” the leader added.
Earlier, it was argued that the NCP was against the move, as leaders of mathadi workers union have been closely associated with NCP chief Sharad Pawar for many years. It was also said that most of the 300-odd marketing committees across the state are under direct control of NCP.
But, NCP’s minister of state for co-operation and marketing, Suresh Dhas, rejected the contention. “It is the union agriculture ministry, headed by Sharad Pawar, that asked the states to de-link the sale of vegetables and fruits from APMCs five years ago,” he said, adding that the decision was farmer-friendly and would ensure higher remunerative price for their produce.
For decades, mathadi workers have been politically favourable towards NCP chief Sharad Pawar. Senior leaders from western Maharashtra say it was due to this fact that Pawar was able to defeat Prithviraj Chavan in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections — the workers backed NCP candidate Shrinivas Patil. Chavan and the leaders of workers’ unions have had at least two meetings last week, but failed to arrive at a consensus over the issue.
While Chavan could not be contacted, as he is away on a foreign tour, MPCC general secretary Mahadev Shelar, also a native of Satara, put to rest any political motives behind the move and said, “The political theories being spread by our political friends are not true. In fact, the NCP’s presence in Satara is much stronger than the Congress.”