Reactions to govt veggie stores in Mumbai a mixed bag
While certain teething troubles have turned a few customers away from the subsidy-based stores, many are flocking to them, preferring the thrift, quality and novelty of the shops. MiD DAY pins down the deficiencies and the plus points at shopping in these stores
With the state government setting up 14 shops across Mumbai to vend vegetables at subsidised prices, over 10,000 kg of vegetables were shipped from the Agricultural Produce and Marketing Committee (APMC) in Vashi to these outlets yesterday. The stock covered a wide array: cauliflower, capsicum, cucumber, carrot, bitter gourd, peas, ginger and ladyfinger.
But the buzz is that the outlets aren’t all that big a rage despite the discounted prices. To run a reality check, a team of our reporters visited eight of these shops to gauge customer response to these novel centres, a week after they were set up.
After conversing with tens of customers at the shops through last evening, we came to understand that while many citizens gave it the thumbs-up, preferring the fresh cheaper fare here, there are some gripes. To name a couple, citizens complain that there isn’t enough supply for everyone, or that the places are too packed and demand a lot of time.
Here’s what customers had to say.
Supari Bagh Madhyavarti Grahak Sangh in Parel
Around 6.30 pm, there wasn’t a queue at the store’s entrance. The APMC trader at the store said there had been a crowd when the store opened some two-and-a-half hours earlier.
We engaged in a chat with some customers picking out fresh vegetables. Parel resident Chandrakant Gawankar (in pic) said, “Vegetables are sold here only starting the evening. When the store opens at around 4 pm there is a long line, which gets shorter as the evening advances and that’s generally when I come. The vegetables here are good quality and priced cheaper, so I do not mind coming here even if there is a queue.”
Another shopper, Namrata Hadkar, said she preferred this outlet as vegetables here were cheaper than the local market. “I am a working woman and live nearby. I spotted the big line outside and came over, only to be informed of the cheaper vegetables. So I decided to buy from here. The veggies seem fresh too.”
Apna Bazar departmental store at Naigaon
There was a long, slow-moving queue here. We came across Geeta Ravindra Dhamak, who, put off by the chockfull centre, said she would rather buy vegetables from the local retail market than waste time standing in an exasperating queue. “I am a working woman and I do not have the time to stand here. They are selling only in a few kilos, and I buy my vegetables in a large quantity since I buy it once in a while. Plus, market prices are not that much higher than what they are offering.”
Supari Bagh Madhyavarti Grahak Sangh in Lalbaug
Again, a long line. One of the women shoppers, however, told us the seemingly daunting queue was shorter today compared to yesterday, which is why she had chosen to hang about to shop.
One of the customers, Chandrakashekar Ganka, said, “I came here after being done with work. If it’s crowded here at the shop then I don’t wait, but if there aren’t many people in line then I come here to buy vegetables. They are cheaper and of good quality. Although, I would not wait in a line to buy them.”
Apna Bazar outlet, Andheri
The stack of vegetables on Monday was 750 kg.
A trader from the APMC market present to monitor the vegetables said, “We try to satisfy maximum number of customers but the one single customer that returns dissatisfied for any reason creates a big issue.
One needs to understand that we are doing the work from our side. There is only one such centre in this area and hence it receives a tremendous load. The solution is to have a second store here.”
A 50-year-old local, Seema Sarin, seemed to have no patience with this explanation. “I fail to understand why no action is taken on vendors. During the time this government stall is open they reduce vegetable costs but as soon as the stock here gets over, they are back to selling at the same hiked prices. Moreover, the quantity supplied by the government is paltry and every day some people have to return empty-handed after having waited for almost two to three hours.”
Apna Bazar at Charkop
The traders here claimed that they have maintained complete transparency with the customers. They said they have arranged the stall in a way that one can see the quantity of vegetables each customer is buying.
“Everything is running smoothly. Customers face no problem here. The footfalls at this store are less compared to those in the Andheri branch and the quantity of stock available is sufficient for the customers,” said trader Pradeep Mekde.
Apna Bazar, Tilak Nagar, Chembur
Refering to the stock purchased from the APMC market, Mangesh Jadhav, manager of Apna Bazar said, “We have got 450 kg today. It depends on how much we get from there (APMC) as they have to supply to many such centres. Sometimes we do not get some vegetables, like, today we do not have tendli (ivy gourd), French beans, spinach and chawli (cowpea beans).”
Responding to the charge that while a handful get to horde a load of vegetables while many return empty-handed, Jadhav said, “Although we do not sell more than 2 kg of one vegetable and 5 kg in total, there may be two people from the same family. How can we possibly find that out? We are ready to run the outlet starting morning but we should be able to procure that much stock from the main market. On Saturday, which was July 13, since we got 1000 kg in stock, we stayed open till 10 in the night. It all depends on the stock we manage to get.”
Heena Joshi, a resident of Tilak Nagar, said, “Although the centres officially run till 8 pm, everything gets over by 6-6.30pm and more than half of the people standing in line have to go home with nothing. I came here on Friday and after waiting for over an hour, there was nothing but cauliflower left for me. So I went back.” He added, “It needs to be ensured that there is enough to sell at least till 8pm, and for that the supply needs to be increased.”
Apna Bazar, Pant Nagar, Ghatkopar (East)
A trader here said, “Around 200-250 people come here daily and the number will increase as more people come to know of this. Vegetables here do not get over before 8 pm. We have sufficient stock for everyone that comes in. Some vegetables, like onion and potato, may however get over quicker than others, even though we don’t sell more than a kilo of each to one buyer. It also depends on the prices, for instance, on Saturday the cost of a spinach bundle was Rs 5 so it was sold out fast.” The trader continued, “We only buy 3-4 crates of green leafy vegetables as they rot easily if unsold.”
Store manager Ramesh Dalvi said that even though there is a need, it is not possible to have a bigger staff because of the limited space in the branch.
Apna Bazar, Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Mulund (West)
“Daily we get around 700-800 kg vegetables and everything gets sold by 8 pm. On some days, specially weekends, it gets over by 6-6.30pm as more people come to buy. So we are planning to increase the stock by 1,000-1,300 kg,” said Pratap Chauhan, an APMC trader.
Thane resident, Bijal Gala (in pic), said, “I have come all the way to buy greens here. I wanted to buy lots but could not. I only got peas, carrot and gavaar. By 7 pm most of the stock got over. So I intend to come early tomorrow. I feel these centres should be near stations.”
-- Richa Pinto, Neha Tripathi, Nigel Buthello and Rubina Choudhari and Mahalakshmi Subramanian