Market Yards, IPK Centers In Nalgonda District: Govt Should Not Jettison Regulatory Responsibilities

A team of the Human Rights Forum (HRF) visited several agriculture market yards and Indira Kranti Padakam (IPK) centers in Nalgonda district on 13 April 2013 to assess their functioning during this period of paddy harvest that is very significant for all farmers. Some of our main observations and recommendations are outlined below.

Our primary observation has been that the government has completely given up on its responsibility of supervising and regulating the agricultural marketing/procurement process with the effect that farmers are left at the mercy of a limited number of commission agents who set the agenda of procurement and the pricing strategy obviously in line with the interests of the traders (primarily rice mills) and themselves. What we noticed was that things have not really changed from the time of the Report of the Commission on Farmers’ Welfare headed by Prof. Jayati Ghosh. The same concerns remain. The government has done nothing along the lines of facilitating just prices and humane procurement processes for agricultural produce except for the establishment of some IKP centers which, when functional, are actually useful for the farmers.

Some of our observations

Mothkur Agricultural Market – virtually non-functional

  • In that whole big market yard, only about two farmers were drying their paddy that too without any hope of their produce being procured
  • One farmer has been waiting for the past 7 days for his paddy to be procured
  • No tarpaulin sheets have been provided for protection of paddy
  • Officials themselves admitted that due to various difficulties such as non-payment of dues on time (sometimes delayed by even 15 days), farmers do not come to market yards such as theirs.

D. Repaka IKP Centre

  • This procurement center was started really late into the paddy harvest season and by then half the region’s produce had already been sold privately by the farmers directly from their fields at whatever unregulated prices they could get from the traders
  • Because of only one truck being allocated, there was a limit imposed on the amount of paddy that could be procured per day. Due to this, farmers have to wait multiple days for their turn to sell produce. Many farmers’ paddy has remained at the procurement centre since 6 days as lorries aren’t sent to take the paddy.
  • No tarpaulin sheets provided to protect the paddy in case of weather disturbances
  • Payment to farmers a week to 10 days after the procurement
  • The SHG which manages the procurement centre itself hasn’t been paid for their work last year.

Addaguda IKP Centre

  • Procurement centre needs to be moved to the nearby school from where it functioned for the last few years. The staff and farmers have to work in the scorching summer heat. However, the school principal/managing committee is demanding Rs. 30,000 to allow the IKP centre to be moved into the school compound!
  • Half the paddy in the region that the IKP centre serves had already been sold by the farmers to private agents since the procurement centre was opened really late
  • No tarpaulin sheets have been provided for protection of paddy

Thirumalgiri Agricultural Market

  • This major procurement centre was closed the day we visited because, according to the officials, they have too much paddy already so they have stopped procurement until all that paddy is transported away.
  • The officials might as well stop coming to work and the market will continue running the way it is, unregulated. Basically, the market yard has turned into a physical space for commission agents to deal with the farmers in any way they see fit, that is, without any intervention or supervision of the agricultural market committee and its office staff. The office itself is under-staffed and the chairman resides at some other place without any oversight of the market.

Suryapet Agricultural Market – a horrible mess

  • Because of the major delay in payments at IKP centers and in some instances because of lack of functional IKP centers near their villages, many farmers are compelled to bring their produce to this market yard in Suryapet
  • Due to some in-our-view avoidable circumstances, farmers are allowed to bring produce to the market yard only after midnight every day which is very harsh on the farmers and their families and therefore unacceptable.
  • No tarpaulin sheets provided for protection of paddy – the entire 30 acres of paddy heaps will be ruined in case of even a minor shower
  • Rice mills buying through commission agents at a commission of 2% and that too without immediate payment in many cases – sometimes the payment may take over 10 days
  • Minimum support prices not being given in many instances. One lambada farmer had been waiting for the past 5 days for his paddy to be procured at the MSP.
  • A limited number of commission agents go from one paddy pile to the next quoting their price (akin to a tender system). This would be ideal in a perfectly competitive seller’s market. However, in the case of such market yards nothing prevents the buyers, who are essentially the commission agents, from colluding among themselves and possibly along with the market yard committees to keep the buying price as low as possible. This is not just a theoretical possibility but such things are known to happen as have been widely reported in the Press and the many reports analyzing the functioning of agricultural market committees.
  • No accessible food, rest area, toilets available for the farmers in the market yard. They have to abandon their paddy and walk over a kilometer, if not more, for any semblance of food, let alone meals. The very untidy and insufficient rest area is useless as farmers cannot abandon their produce and take rest, even if they are compelled to stay overnight at the yard, which is true in many cases. Farmers are being charged Rs. 5-10 for using toilets which are stench-ridden and inundated with water on the day of our visit.

Our Demands:

  • The recommendations of the Report of the Commission on Farmers’ Welfare headed by Jayati Ghosh, which was accepted by the State Cabinet need to be implemented immediately. It is no wonder that farmers’ suicides continue unabated. The Commission ‘which had gone into the reasons for the distress of farmers in the State resulting in a large number of suicide deaths’ made several key recommendations which were accepted in principle and which were supposed to be acted upon.
  • Many more IKP centres need to be opened, as soon as harvesting begins, and need to be made more functional and farmer-friendly so that farmers don’t have to resort to private distress selling or feel compelled to go long distances and face horrible conditions, for several days at times, at the major market yards.
  • Food Corporation of India and the State Civil Supplies department have to get involved in the procurement process and not buy stock from rice mills later. Their timely and direct involvement in the procurement process will ensure that farmers get just prices and won’t be at the mercy of the colluding power centers in the market yards – the commission agents among themselves and quite possibly with the market yard officials.
  • Farmers need to be paid immediately after their produce is procured. Why should agricultural produce be an exception to the logic that dictates all other products in the market? Why should farmers have to wait over a week and sometimes up to 10-15 days to be paid for what they have sold? After all, in the absence of the government providing interest-free/low-interest loans, they have to take loans at high interest rates from private moneylenders for which the greater the delay in re-payment means a higher quantum of interest.
  • There needs to be technically competent staff at market yards to fairly gauge the quality of agricultural produce such as paddy so that farmers are not compelled to rely on the cartel/syndicate of commission agents for determining quality and thus the price of their produce. It is commonly claimed that it is the strategy of the commission agents to claim excessive moisture content in the paddy or poor quality of rice in the paddy, etc. in order to make the paddy seem less desirable and thus price it lower.
  • In effect, our main demand is that the government should not give up on the marketing of agricultural produce. Because the stance that the government takes and the sincerity with which it involves itself in providing just prices for agricultural produce will ultimately determine the viability of an entire profession that encompasses at least half of our population directly. Agricultural market regulation, in addition to all the other important initiatives that need to be taken with respect to farming, is key to the survival, livelihoods and happiness of an entire major section of our population. We should not let down those that feed us.

G Mohan
(HRF State secretary)

N Amar
(Nalgonda dist. vice-president)

Ch. Guruvaiah
(Nalgonda dist. president)


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