Himachal Pradesh government is finally seeking court’s intervention against Delhi government’s failure of implementing the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) law at Azadpur Fruit Market. Apple growers are charged 8% commission on the fruit sold in this market. This is against the APMC law enacted by the Government of India and are in force everywhere in the country.
The bone of contention is the arbitrary way of functioning of the Azadpur fruit market in Delhi. This market is the biggest and busiest in Asia. Apple growers in Himachal have traditionally been dependent on this fruit market for selling their apple crop every year. With rising cost of production and transportation, deduction of commission has now started pinching the growers. Earlier there was not much awareness on the issue and growers would simply accept whatever sale was handed over. Now armed with the law (Refer to clause 40 ) apple growers are demanding to abolish the practice of charging commission.
The fault basically lies with the earlier governments who did nothing on the issue except paying lip service. Singhi Ram, the horticulture minister in previous government had a poor stint as a minister. He is now facing court cases and vigilance enquiries for his actions as minister. He was merely a rubber stamp when actual decisions were taken. In fact, horticulture ministry is the least wanted in Himachal. Horticulture ministers ultimately become unpopular because of the MIS scheme floated by the government. Every year payments to the growers get delayed for the apple procured under this scheme. Add to this the pressure of maintaining fungicide supplies through out the year, arranging for trucks and cartons during apple season, politicians eventually shy away from this ministry. This has hampered overall functioning of this department and the show is run by bureaucrats who have least concerns about the farmers.
It is heartening to note that Mr. Narender Bragta has risen to the occasion and in his second stint as a minister has chosen this very same ministry. His first tenure was, I guess, spent in learning the process of governance. This time he appears to be a level headed person. Taking the powerful Delhi traders is not an easy task. By referring the matter to court he has ultimately given voice to a long pending demand of the farmers. The law will finally catch up with the erring Delhi government. It can only delay the matter but one can be assured of a fair ruling from the court.
Two urgent issues which Mr. Bragta needs to look into as horticulture minister. Introducing new apple varieties in the state is needed. Absence of any credible information on new varieties is hampering fresh plantation in the orchards. Secondly, cold stores are required to store apple crop after plucking. In the absence of cold stores, farmers are forced to send their crop to the market, thus creating a glut and forced to sell at lower rates. The government need not create the infrastructure but can involve private participation in this sector.