Maharashtra’s urban development and public works minister Eknath Shinde, on Wednesday, said the state government is considering a plan to financially support the daily wage laborers involved in running the Agricultural Market Produce Committee (APMC) in Mumbai and will work on a plan to bring back the APMC traders who are stuck in their villages due to the covid-19 lockdown.

In a meeting with the top management of APMC on Wednesday evening, Shinde said it is crucial to have the traders back to ensure that APMC is able to function smoothly after it reopens on Thursday.

Shinde also mentioned that he will discuss with the state’s chief minister Uddhav Thackarey to provide some kind of financial support to the city’s daily wage laborers, especially those involved in the business of essential items.

“This is a big market that provides food grains, vegetables, fruits etc to a huge city like Mumbai. This big market was shut, then opened and then shut again. Social distancing should be maintained. In the end, the person working here (APMC) is a trader, a labourer. Their health also must be protected. I have given directions for this,” said Shinde to the APMC management in the meeting.

Shinde said he has held a meeting with Narendra Patil, leader of the mathadi workers leader and the mahamandal head along with the office bearers of the APMC and gave directions to resolve whatever small issues that people had.

On Tuesday, Mint reported that the Maharashtra government has urged the APMCs in Mumbai and Pune to resume operations by Thursday.

When it reopens the APMC market is likely to operate with only 25% manpower and 20% transportation capacity due to the absence of laborers and traders, who have left for their villages due to the lockdown and fear of contracting covid-19.

The state government is concerned that disruption in the APMC market may eventually lead to shortage of foodgrains, vegetables, fruits and spices in Mumbai amid the coronavirus (covid-19) crisis.

APMC is looking to reduce the number of trucks entering the APMC market in Mumbai from 1,200 trucks to 300 and the number of people who can enter the market from the suppliers side from 6,000 to 1500 per day.

APMC is facing difficulties in resuming operations amid the lockdown. The committee has told the state government that its staff is not able to commute since local trains are not operational and police officials do not allow people to travel in buses unless they are recognised as essential services providers.

To avoid crowding these markets by retail shopkeepers, who provide last-mile link to customers, the APMC authorities in Mumbai have also decided to issue special identity cards, approved by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and endorsed by Maharashtra police.

APMCs in both Mumbai and Pune, worst-hit cities in Maharashtra, have decided to follow same self-framed rules to be able to keep the wholesale markets open, said Veera.

The government has told APMC that it will provide buses from areas like Dombivali to APMC markets.

Nilesh Vira, APMC president (food grains) said on Tuesday that conductors of BEST buses in Mumbai often refuse APMC workers to board.

“I need my full staff with me to work. The concern is that ID cards and means of travelling are not in place yet. The ID card is issued by the APMC and need to be endorsed by the police,” said Vira.

n addition, to avoid over-crowding in the APMC premises, Vira said the APMC management has decided to issue special passes to customers as well.

APMC is also negotiating with transporters on the process to be followed to curtail the number of trucks entering these markets.

The state government has allowed the APMCs to act as self-regulatory organisations and formulate their own set of rules to ensure there is no disruption in supply chains of essential goods–foodgrains, vegetables and fruits–and to keep prices in check.

In Mumbai and its suburban areas alone, about one lakh people manage five markets under the APMC in the city. This had increased the risk of transmission of the deadly virus, leading to briefly shutting down the APMC markets last week.

In the latest meeting on Wednesday, Shinde said the government has given directions to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation for the testing of the APMC workers.

Shinde said that the chief minister, the government and the guardian minister are all there to support the APMC workers and the government has called the BMC to set up arrangements for RT-PCR tests to detect and prevent spreading of covid-19.

News Source: Livemint


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