The Krishi Upaj mandi at Shahdol in Madhya Pradesh lies deserted, except for the movement of trucks coming in to buy fertilisers.
This mandi is one of the 47 in the state that have seen no business since September, while another 143 have seen their revenues drop by 40 to 50 percent in October and an overall drop in business by 20 per cent after the Centre’s three farm laws came into effect.
One of the 100 ‘D’ grade mandis with a yearly revenue of less than a crore, the Shahdol mandi generated a revenue of about Rs 80 lakh in 2019 and paid nearly Rs 39 lakh to the state government as tax.
Governed under MP Krishi Upaj Mandi Adhiniyam, 1972, the 259 mandis of the state generated about Rs 1,246 crore of revenue in 2019 and paid Rs 413 crore as tax.
In September, the average drop in business at mandis across the state, as compared to 2019, was about 14.74 per cent; in October, it slipped to 20.4 per cent. All six divisions, barring Ujjain, witnessed a drop in farmers coming in — varying from 4 per cent in Indore to 71 per cent in Rewa.
Sandeep Yadav, Managing Director of the state Mandi Board, said mandis have recorded a drop in business of about 20 to 25 per cent as a chunk of business has started taking place outside mandis. He said the exact drop in revenue would be difficult to ascertain as of now. “The farm laws are one of the reasons. But there are other contributing factors, such as Covid-19 and low production of soyabean that usually comes into the mandis during this season,” he said.
Despite the drop in business, the revenue generated between April and October shows a surplus of 0.17 per cent as compared to the corresponding period in 2019, according to the Mandi Board data. Yadav attributed this to high procurement of wheat by the Food Corporation of India.
The revenues of mandis are expected to take a hit also due to a reduction in mandi tax for traders from 1.5 per cent to about 0.5 per cent that came into effect from November.
According to Bhanu Pratap Singh, zilla president of Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, the government did not procure maize, MSP for which was fixed at Rs 1,850 per quintal, forcing farmers to sell outside. “Maize was cultivated on around 5,000 hectares in Shahdol. When the government did not procure, farmers had to sell it to traders who did not pay more than Rs 800 per quintal. The farm Acts have only hurt the interest of farmers in Shahdol.”
At the mandi, salaries of 12 employees are being paid from the surplus revenue generated earlier. An official said, “We will only be able to pay employees for two more months.”
B B Faujdar, coordinator of Sanyukta Sangharsh Morcha MP Board Bhopal, an association of mandi board employees, has written to the state government, demanding that the nearly 9,000 employees be absorbed by the state government.
Faujdar said, “If the government does not pay heed to farmers’ demands, we will join their agitation.”
The drop in business is also worrying traders who have set up warehouses and process plants within mandi premises.
Gopaldas Agarwal, general secretary of Mahasangh, a board of about 48,000 traders in the state, said, “Mandi hai toh kisan surakshit hai, aur kisan surakshit hai toh vyapari bhi. If farmers are not protected, how will traders do business? If the government does not pay heed to the farmers’ demands, we will be compelled to join their agitation.”
State Agriculture Minister Kamal Patel said, “The laws might not be perfect and we are ready to sort out the issues. The farmers have to convince us. The laws have been implemented as they are for the betterment of farmers.”
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