The Madhya Pradesh government is planning boost infrastructure at mandis in the state by setting up shops for subsidised agricultural products and malls similar to Army canteens within their premises, state Agriculture Minister Kamal Patel said Saturday.
According to the proposal, at least 25 petrol pumps will also be opened on a pilot basis inside the premises of mandis.
His announcement—made after a meeting with Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar—comes as farmers in the state protest the three controversial farm laws and seeking a separate legislation to ensure functioning of mandis.
Patel refused to give a written assurance to the state’s farmers on mandis, saying: “When we have assured that the mandis will not cease to function, there is not need to give the same in writing. We are saying that mandis will continue to function.”
Reinforcing its stand amid public discontent
Thousands of farmers from across Madhya Pradesh have participated in protests against the three farm laws, with at least 713 arrested and several others detained by the Government Railway Police across various police stations. Amid the rising discontent against the controversial laws and fears of closure of mandis, the state government has tried to re-enforce its stand that the marketplaces will continue to remain operational and will have no dearth of funding—which will be generated through other mechanisms as well.
Shivkumar Sharma, a state farmer leader, said the announcements made by Patel were an attempt to mislead farmers. “The government is trying to portray a picture that mandis will not eventually shut down through these announcements so that we don’t protest. But the ground reality is that nothing will change through these sops, nor will they bring any benefit to farmer.”
The state minister, meanwhile, said the shops will help increase mandi revenue.
At the malls and stores, farmers can use smart cards to make purchases. A survey to identify the availability of land has been initiated. The mandis will also be equipped with ATMs, banks, restroom and canteens, with the model first being implemented in five mandis, Patel said.
The state minister claimed that many of the protesting farmers were paid. He also alleged that the protests against the farm bills was backed by an “arthiya (middlemen) lobby”. “If the farmers would have been against the farm bills, the Bharaqtiya Janata Party would not have won with such overwhelming vote share in the by-elections on 28 seats in Madhya Pradesh and assembly elections of Bihar,” he said.
He also claimed that the farm loan waiver scheme of the Kamal Nath-led Congress government had failed to benefit the farmers, with many given letters showing that their loan had been waived but with the money not being credited into their account.
“We will be filing a cheating case against Nath and Rahul Gandhi for fooling farmers,” said Patel.
He added that the government is working on a proposal to procure vegetables from farmers on Minimum Support Price and enable two Farmer Producer Organisations with 300 farmers each at block levels to set up cold storage units.
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