Bengal unfazed at proposed mandi changes
The Bengal government is not put off by the legislative changes proposed by Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday as it has already incorporated in its APMC Act some of the changes the Modi government is contemplating.
“The concept that a farmer has to sell his produce only to a licence holder practically does not exist here. To provide a measure of comfort to investors from outside the state, we allowed a single APMC licence that enables buyers to buy farm produce from any market in Bengal,” a state official said.
The APMC was the stronghold of the Forward Bloc during Left Front rule.
After Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee became chief minister, he tried to bring in changes to cut the middlemen out of the chain and ensure that farmers earned more money. But his plans were stonewalled by his political ally, so much so that German retailer Metro Cash & Carry could not start business at its EM Bypass facility for quite some time because it did not have the licence.
Bhattacharjee had to use a special executive power to give Metro Cash a licence to operate. After the Trinamul Congress came to power, the Forward Bloc hegemony over the market committees withered. The 2014 amendment to the APMC Act hastened the process.
“We never had any issue procuring agricultural items in Bengal. The APMC Act was amended a few years ago and it is quite progressive compared to many other states,” said a city-based industrialist involved in the food-processing sector.