A new legislation that will give voting rights to 1.36 crore farmers in the agricultural produce marketing committees (APMCs) was passed in the State Legislative Assembly amid protests by Congress and NCP members. The Maharashtra Agriculture Produce Marketing (Development and Regulation) Bill was passed in the House with the support of the BJP and Shiv Sena. The legislation will now be referred to the State Legislative Council before it becomes an Act.
The legislation aims to empower farmers by giving them voting rights to elect APMC chairpersons and panels as well as influence its policies. There are 305 APMCs in the state.
“The reforms will strengthen the APMCs and serve farmers’ interests better. There is no question of dismantling the APMCs. To the contrary, the government wants to make them more competitive,” said Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
The legislation met with stiff resistance from the Congress and NCP, which control APMC markets across Maharashtra. “The ruling BJP is trying to dismantle the cooperative sector and the APMCs. What is the logic behind allowing all farmers to vote in the APMCs? The exercise will lead to higher expenditure and a cumbersome process,” said senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar.
“It’s a larger design by the government to take control of the institutions which have been built over the years,” he added.
Minister for Cooperation and Marketing Subash Deshmukh, however, said, “The APMCs have been established as a platform for farmers to sell their produce and obtain a fair and reasonable price in return. With the introduction of the Bill, farmers, who are the actual backbone of the market committees and with knowledge of the hurdles and difficulties in the APMCs, will have maximum representation and be able to give practical and efficient guidance in the functioning of the committees.”
BJP MLA Sanjay Kute and Anil Bondre supported the legislation. Kute said, “Why should a farmer not have a greater say in the APMCs? Why should a handful of traders determine the price of their farm produce.”
Earlier, voting rights in the APMCs were restricted to only gram panchayats, cooperative societies and agriculture credit societies members.