Returning to subject of markets raised some time ago on this site, a post by Devinder Sharma in Ground Reality brought to mind a splendid article, TRADITIONAL MARKETS, by Uzramma, the founder of Dastkar Andhra, focussing largely on the selling of goods and textiles.
It was published in the INDRANET JOURNAL, VOL 4, NO 5, 1995 /March 1996. In due course it will be reproduced in full on this site. She wrote:
The bazaars evolved over time, located in a particular spot convenient for meeting and transport. They were the places where news was exchanged and discussed, ideas and opinions formed and prices settled according to season, taste, need and solvency. After harvests both farmers and farm workers have more money, and the markets are full of produce. During the rainy season the weekly market will not be held at all, or only in an abbreviated form.
“In the midst of the polarised debate over the need to allow big supermarket retail giants like Wal-Mart and Tesco into India, Uttar Pradesh has laid out a roadmap for expanding the existing network of mandis (market yards) by adding another 2,105 in the next four years.
Azadpur, said to be the largest in India
“In the absence of an assured market, farmers have no incentive to make the right kind of investment for improving production. Nor do they receive the right price for their produce.
“In the midst of the polarised debate over the need to allow big supermarket retail giants like Wal-Mart and Tesco into India, Past experience show that big food retail has neither benefited the farmer not the consumer. Nor has the big retail helped in creating jobs. It is the absence of mandis in Uttar Pradesh that has so far gone to the disadvantage of farmers. According to the National Sample Survey, monthly income of an average farming family in UP is the lowest among all the states. It has laid out a roadmap for expanding the existing network of mandis (market yards) by adding another 2,105 in the next four years.
”It is primarily because of the wide network of mandis and that too at an approachable distance that Punjab has turned into a food bowl. Assured procurement in the mandis is what has enabled farmers to get a higher price for their harvest. In Punjab, because of the existence of mandis you rarely hear of distress sale at the time of harvest. In UP, there is hardly a year when reports of distress sale do not pour in.
”The proposed network of mandis will save UP farmers from invariably selling their produce in distress. In the absence of a network of mandis there has hardly been a harvest season when farmers have not been exploited and duped by the middlemen. It is not unusual to see farmers carrying their harvested produce to mandis in the neighbouring states.
”The proposal now is to set up 500 mandis every year. The huge network of mandis when complete will also reduce the average distance a farmer will need to cover to take his harvest to the nearest mandi to approximately seven kms.
“Instead of handing these mandis to the private sector, as the Planning Commission has been insisting, Chief Minister Mayawati has taken the right decision to let these mandis be operated by the State Agricultural Produce Marketing Board.
”There is no denying that over the years commission agents have virtually taken over control of the mandis. Much of this problem is simply because the political parties have handed over the control of the mandis to the arhtiyas (middlemen). Instead of being managed by professionals, most of the mandi boards in the country are being controlled by the commission agents. A better regulatory system without any political interference can rejuvenate the mandi structures, and make them effective.”