If there is one single initiative any government has taken recently benefiting the farmer and the consumer equally, it is the recent program launched in Andhra Pradesh by the Horticulture Department of the state for delivering fresh vegetables at the door steps of the families. The beauty of the program is that there are triple beneficiaries all getting a fair deal under the arrangements put in place. Farmers in villages are divided into clusters, with each cluster being assigned to an entrepreneur who is equipped with specially designed vans to collect and bring to different colonies in cities nearby. This is an example of how well intentioned, soundly designed and efficiently executed public programs can serve the communities well and reduce the impact of uncertainties and fluctuations in prices commonly experienced these days due to the brutal middlemen who exploit both the farmer and the consumer for his self interest. Here is a take on this approach of A. P. government which needs to be congratulated for the citizen friendly program that enables people to get access to the protective foods so necessary for protecting health.
"The 'Farm Fresh Vegetables on Wheels' launched by the Department of Horticulture involving clusters of farmers and farming entrepreneurs is catching up with the citizens of the city welcoming it. The state-wide programme launched on March 18 in the city had been formulated with farmers groups in a village formed into a cluster. The farmers in the cluster supply freshly harvested vegetables to the Horticulture entrepreneurs who are either from among the families of the farmers or an outsider, who collects vegetables in the early hours of each day from the vegetable farms and carry them in his specially designed mobile vegetable sales outlet given by the department of Horticulture. The posh looking mobile outlet is given on a subsidy of Rs.2 lakh out of a total cost of Rs.5.3 lakh. A loudspeaker is fitted to the vehicle and a recorded message announces the arrival of the vehicle at the residential colonies. The entrepreneur brings the vegetables to the city by 9 a.m. to the designated residential localities. One of the entrepreneurs selected by the department Nagi Reddy Sathyanarayana told The Hindu that he hailed from Adduru village in Chodavaram mandal. He is also a vegetable farmer and part of the cluster of farmers in his village. Nagi Reddy sells vegetables in the posh residential colony of Waltair Uplands and is quite happy with the success of the scheme. Local resident Mercy Paul, a regular customer at the outlet said that she was very happy with the quality of vegetables. They are fresh and fine. The prices appear to be higher than Rythu Bazzar but the vegetables are arriving at our doorstep, she adds. As the mobile outlet arrives women can be seen grabbing the fresh vegetables".
Since the program has been launched very recently it may take some time before a value judgment regarding its efficacy or impact can be made though involvement of private entrepreneurs can definitely give it a fair chance of success. One cannot forget the Fruit and Vegetable initiative taken way back in 1980s under the NDDB umbrella which promised many things but could not manage a pan India foot print so far for many reasons. This responsibility undertaken while Dr Verghese Kurien was alive, was entrusted to NDDB because of its vast experience in organizing milk cooperatives which contributed in no small measure to the roaring success in the form of White Revolution. In a smaller way HOPCOMS in Karnataka organized fruit and vegetable vending kiosks in many urban areas in the state with active participation by the Horticulture Department and this program also could not show any dramatic results as reflected by the poor condition under which many vegetable vending kiosks in most cities work to day. The novelty of the A P Scheme is that the fresh commodity is delivered in a prime condition to the house holds at reasonable prices and if the new initiative really succeeds, it can be a model that can be replicated all over the country with great relief to the much harassed consumer and badly exploited farmers!