GUWAHATI, Feb 25 – In a bid to rid of middlemen, the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) today opened two ‘fair price’ stalls for vegetables at Chandmari and RG Baruah Road Tiniali after procuring the produce in bulk from farmers in Barpeta Road where they had been deprived of their due remuneration due to large-scale presence of middlemen and illegal syndicates in the trade.
Both the stalls run by the KMSS drew overwhelming response from the citizens who made a beeline to the stalls to get vegetables at half the price sold in the city markets.
“The response has been so great that we exhausted our supply meant for the proposed six stalls in the first two stalls itself. We are committed to sell vegetables at half the market price here, and will open eight more stalls in the city,” KMSS publicity secretary Kamal Kumar Medhi said.
About a hundred quintals of vegetables were sold in the two stalls today.
The rates per kg for different vegetables in the two stalls were: cabbage-Rs 5, cauliflower-Rs 6, tomato-Rs 6, brinjal-Rs 10, squash-Rs 8, German turnip (ulkabi)-Rs 6, potato-Rs 12, carrot-Rs 7, and coriander (dhaniya)-Rs 15. All these vegetables are being sold in the city’s market at double this price.
The KMSS said that the farmers had been selling their vegetables in the Barpeta Road wholesale market at very low prices due to the exploitative working of middlemen.
“In Barpeta Road, the farmers were compelled to sell cabbage at Rs 1.20, cauliflower at Rs 2.50, tomato at Rs 3, German turnip at Rs 2, coriander at Rs 9.50, potato at Rs 6, and squash at Rs 7. We have ensured just prices for them at Rs 4, Rs 5, Rs 5.50, Rs 5, Rs 14, Rs 7 and Rs 9 respectively for these vegetables,” the KMSS said.
The consumers also expressed satisfaction with the KMSS initiative, and asserted that such efforts could go a long way in eradicating the sinister racket of middlemen who ran illegal syndicates, exploiting both the grassroots producers and the consumers in the process.
“This is a refreshing and much-needed development. The government authorities – especially the Agriculture Department and the Civil Supplies Department – ought to have done this long back. The KMSS deserves praise for this, and they must be able to sustain it and extend it to all the districts of the State,” Biren Deka, a customer at Chandmari, said.
Another customer, Rajiv Sarma, said that the Government, by its inaction on the thriving illegal syndicates, was in a way endorsing the nefarious practice, and that it was time people joined hands to ensure that there was a direct contact between the producer and the consumer.
“Rackets of middlemen and innumerable goonda taxes imposed on transportation of vegetables is largely responsible for the exorbitant prices of vegetables and other products. The Government has turned a blind eye to these blatant illegalities. It is good that the KMSS is trying to establish a direct link between the consumers and the producers,” he said.
The KMSS alleged that the skyrocketing prices of vegetables stemmed from illegal tax collected at 27 gates of the Assam State Agricultural marketing Board and at police stations, while the products reached the open market after passing through five-six groups of middlemen.
“It is precisely due to such a situation that German turnip (ulkabi) which is sold at Rs 1.20 a kg at source is sold at Rs 12 a kg in the markets of Guwahati. Regrettably, the Government, the Agriculture Minister, politicians, bureaucrats, police and the nexus of middlemen are never interested in stopping all these illegalities, which can ensure adequate remuneration to the producers as well as a just price for the consumers,” the KMSS said.
The KMSS said that the two stalls at Chandmari and RG Baruah Road Tiniali would continue for a week on an experimental basis, following which the stalls would be expanded to other areas of the city provided either the Government or the public gave the KMSS adequate space.
The Assam Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the KMSS initiative of selling vegetables directly to the public.