Why has the government taken the decision to enter the vegetable market?
It was taken to ease the problems faced by people across Mumbai and some parts of Maharashtra. Public anger against the rising prices of vegetables forced us to intervene. CM Prithviraj Chavan asked me to see what could be done to address the problem and provide relief.
But how practical is the decision of government to set up
We had to make a beginning somewhere. Preliminary reports clearly showed prices were being manipulated by those controlling the vegetable markets. Our effort is to make vegetables available to people at reasonable rates and also ensure their variety and quality. We source vegetables directly from the farms.
But will 106 outlets resolve the crisis in Mumbai,which has a population of 1.25 crore?
This is just a beginning. We will rope in professionals to deal with larger market mechanics and come up with a policy. As per demand and supply,the number of these outlets may increase. Our effort is to check the artificial rise in vegetable prices. I have called a meeting of officials in Agriculture Produce Market Committee to find ways to tackle the problem.
How would you dispute the argument that vegetables are a perishable commodity and so their price mechanism is based on demand and supply?
In the current situation,this is not entirely true. There cannot be any justification for selling tomatoes at Rs 70 per kg when it should not exceed Rs 40 per kg. Similarly,there is a lot of manipulation in pricing of onions. When there is no shortage,how can you justify the steep price rise in the open market?
How do you plan to sustain the vegetable outlets? And will it be replicated in other parts of state?
As an experiment,we have begun in Mumbai. We believe we have a big market here and things can be made to work with help from professionals. The sources from where the vegetables can be procured in bulk have been identified. Today,vegetables from other region can land in Mumbai before 9 am and then transported to these outlets in the city and suburbs. The main centre will be located in Goregaon where vegetables from Pune,Nashik,Ahmednagar and other places will arrive daily.
Is there any other objective behind this project?
My main objective is to provide a direct market for the farmers who can negotiate the price. The process,when it works,will go a long way in eliminating the middlemen who exploit the markets for profits at the cost of both farmers and people.