Five major wholesale markets in the state, including Pune’s, are likely to see a major change in the way their board of directors are elected. Instead of elections to pick the board, the state government is likely to appoint senior officials as directors to run these markets. These five markets — the wholesale markets of Vashi, Nashik, Kolhapur and Nagpur, besides Pune — receive around 30 per cent of the commodities arriving from other states and have substantially large turnovers. Vashi’s is the largest wholesale market in the state and, besides Maharashtra, records arrivals from Gujarat, among other states. The move to appoint senior officials as directors is part of the new model Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act circulated by the central government in March this year. The Act specifies markets with more than 30 per cent arrival from other states as markets of national importance.
State governments have been asked to give their suggestions and objections to it and adopt it as they deem fit. The Act has numerous other provisions to improve the performance of wholesale markets and help farmers realise better value for their produce. The government has formed a special committee headed by the director (marketing) to study the matter and submit a report. The report, it is learnt, is in its final stages after which it will be put before the Cabinet for approval.
APMCs for long have been the hub of politics. In Maharashtra, the Congress and NCP have traditionally controlled these markets with the ruling BJP having a thin presence in them. Earlier, the state government had mooted the concept of expert directors, who would be political appointees on these boards. Majority of those appointed, it is said, were close to the BJP. The present move, many say, is another government move to wrestle control of these markets.
Officials say the move will free the markets from political interference and allow for better implementation of schemes. Meanwhile, most traders say the move will not affect the functioning of the markets. Rajendra Shelke, president of the Vashi market’s onion and potato traders, said trade would go on unhindered. “This is purely a political move and will achieve nothing substantial,” he said.
Jagdish Apshunde, a director of the Nashik market, however, said the move will have its pros and cons. “An upright officer will be able to run the markets better but if power is concentrated in the hands of a corrupt officer, the market will go for a toss,” he said.