It is a well-known fact that often vegetable growers are unable to recover even the cost of production and are forced to throw away vegetables or feed animals while consumers pay the heavy price for the same vegetables. The vast disparity between the price offered to growers and the price charged from consumers is primarily due to intermediaries (middlemen). The number of intermediaries between growers and consumers may be five or six. A study conducted a couple of years ago in Delhi found six intermediaries.
I request the Prime Minister to consider the suggestions given below.
The problem can be solved by establishing a direct link between growers and consumers. It may sound difficult but is possible. The vegetable growers need awareness, encouragement and essential facilities. The facilities required are (a) specially designed vans which can be used as sales counters also; (b) driving skill and driving license; (c) road connecting villages to urban areas; (d) open area that can be used as the market; and (e) finance.
Specially designed vans are available. (Please see the photograph pasted at the top of the article.) I had seen such carriers in Oxford, which were widely used in weekly vegetable markets. Such carriers are used in many other countries as well. Probably, these are used in certain parts of our own country. The manufacturers of trucks, tempos and buses do not require much time to supply such vans.
Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana, the flagship scheme of the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, can provide driving skill and help get the driving license.
Villages are gradually being linked to urban areas. The programme can be introduced in those places that are already linked or will be linked in near future.
Every city or town has open areas that are used for weekly or daily vegetable markets. Even otherwise, it is not difficult to earmark areas for the programme.
Finance can be provided under the Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana to be repaid in easy instalments.
With a wide network of electronic media covering most of the villages and villagers’ access to vernacular newspapers, creating awareness and encouraging the growers should not be a difficult task.
Vegetable growers of a village or of nearby villages can join hands to supply different types of vegetables in the same van.
One essential condition is cooperation between the State governments and local officials. Block Development Officers (BDOs) and local village panchayats should be given the task of ensuring and monitoring implementation.
The programme can be initiated in areas that are considered more receptive. If it succeeds, it is bound to attract others.
The only fear is that since it will hit the intermediaries who are often also musclemen, they may threaten vegetable growers and create hurdles for them. Most, if not all, of the intermediaries, carry out their transactions in cash and do not pay income tax on their profits. Such intermediaries or middlemen should be treated as anti-social elements and punished according to law.
(The author is a retired bureaucrat. The views expressed are personal)