Amid the burdensome announcement of rail fare and freight hike, one piece of news that can bring cheer to the people is the Modi government’s order to State governments to delist vegetables from the APMC Acts. This will enable farmers to skip APMC yards and various expenses like the taxes and loading and unloading charges, thus making vegetables much cheaper than the prevailing prices. To give an example, traders buy onions in APMC markets at Lasalgaon in Nashik district for just about Rs 8-to Rs 10 KG and the landing price in the retail markets comes to Rs 20-Rs 30 a kg. And, with hoarders getting into the picture, the prices at times go beyond the sky and cost Rs 100 a kg.

Adivashi had cautioned during last onion crisis that hoarders and speculative traders should be checked. Onions, typically, can be stored up to six months and that leaves ample scope for price rigging. Not just onion and potato farmers, even flower growers have demonstrated last year that they can benefit the end consumer by selling them directly.

During UPA rule, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi sent out the signal to the Chief Ministers to end the APMC route and now Arun Jaitley took this forward, ending uncertainty amid the general impression that BJP is a traders’ party. It is no secret that the community voted en masse for NDA and they are bound to protest.

But the move is not without its rival political overtones. The NCP traditionally has a hold over the Mathadi (head-load) workers. Remember, NCP supremo had, in fact, created a controversy by asking these workers who hail from Satara-Sangli belt to vote twice – once in their villages and later in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai – during the last Lok Sabha elections? Apart from the Mathadi unions, commission agents who hail from Junnar, Pune and Baramati areas are bound to mount pressure on Pawar to ensure that the Congress Chief Minister does not to toe the Rahul-Jaitley line. But then, Can even Pawar afford to ignore the interest of the common man? Let’s keep a watch as the weak monsoon is bound to imbalance the demand-supply position.

Talking of the monsoon, the first rains have already caused misery in APMC market complexes and surroundings. Complaints of water logging due to incomplete civic works have already been raised. Adivashi has been consistently focusing attention on the never-ending road repairs and concretisation in the market areas that results in slowing down and diversion of traffic, much to the inconvenience and irritation of motorists.

Citizens have been literally shouting from rooftops about the menace on the roads due to non-clearance of garbage in time. Now, we are faced with another peculiar problem of garbage trucks adding to the woes. The stink emanating from the trucks plying at odd times has become unbearable. On top of that, garbage from open trucks often spills over on to the main thoroughfares and nobody cares about it.

Amid this gloom, the good news is that CIDCO has begun to take concrete steps to improve infrastructure in project affected areas. For instance, the planning body reconstructed a Zilla Parishad run school at Wahal village bringing much needed relief to students who have been going to a dilapidated building for years. This new building stands out as a perfect example of participative development. CIDCO bore the cost of construction, while village chipped in for interior works like furniture. The school has all the best of the amenities that most government run schools do not have – separate washrooms for boys and girls, good playground, labs and student discussion rooms.

The cluster development plan initiated by Guardian Minister Ganesh Naik may have run into trouble among the villages contributing to negative voting for his son Sanjeev in the recent Lok Sabha poll. Now, CIDCO has come out with a three-point alternative plan to explain the benefits of cluster development. One: Those who built houses based on their growing needs and do not want to participate in cluster development will get an FSI of 1.25; Two: Those built houses newly and yet want to join the development process will get an enhanced FSI of 2.5. Finally, here is a big bonus for those project-affected people who have been allotted developed plots at the rate of 12.5% of their original land surrendered to CIDCO: they will get an FSI of 4 in lieu of the leaving out some areas for community facilities like roads, gardens and common amenities.

With this, one hopes that the prevailing confusion and political talk over cluster development will end and the neglected rural areas in this city of 21st century will soon begin to get proper infrastructure.

While on political issues, Ganesh Naik’s bête noire and NCP lady Manda Mhatre has quit the party and joined BJP ending speculations about her future plans. She has an eye on Belapur seat in the upcoming assembly elections. Naik is the sitting MLA from here. The Congress has already staked its claim and Shiv Sena’s Vithal More is gunning for it from the Maha Yuti. Will Belapur see intra alliance battles? Watch this space.

This is the 78th in a series on Navi Mumbai by veteran media professional B N Kumar, a long-time resident of Mumbai’s twin city. He can be contacted at: mailbnk@gmail.com

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