Cong-ruled states to exempt fruits, vegetables from APMC Act

Congress-ruled states will keep fruits and vegetables out of the ambit of the Agricultural Produce Markets Committee Acts, thereby giving farmers a choice on where to sell their produce and passing on the benefit of lower prices to consumers, in a bid to win back confidence of voters harassed by rising prices and widespread corruption.

This is among the five steps suggested at a high-level meeting of party leaders convened to look into the main reasons for the people's anger against the party and suggest ways to fight corruption and price rise, the main culprits. 

The meeting, convened by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, finance minister P Chidambaram, food minister K V Thomas and the minister of state for personnel V Narayanasamy and attended by chief ministers of all 12 Congress-ruled states, decided to take five steps immediately to address the two key issues.

The decisions also include setting up Lokayuktas in all Congress-ruled states by 28 February, in line with the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act.

The proposed delisting of perishables will give the farmers freedom to sell their produce directly to processors, aggregators and traders outside the mandi.

Retailers have for long been demanding structural changes to augment growth in the farm sector.

Besides keeping fruits and vegetables out of the Agricultural Produce Markets Committee Acts, the states have also been directed to invoke the Essential Commodities Act to deal with hoarding, black marketing and profiteering.

''Chronic offenders may also be detained under the Prevention of Black Marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act,'' a party release said.

All Congress-ruled states will immediately implement the reforms proposed to the public distribution system as stipulated in the National Food Security Act to eliminate leakages.

Besides all these states would open fair price shops, either by the government or by women self-help groups, to sell fruits, vegetables and eggs at ''reasonable'' prices.

The party is looking for ways to ease the pressure of high petroleum prices and essential commodities such as foodgrains, pulses, sugar and edible oil.

However, implementing the reforms in the public distribution system may take at least two years. Government may have to liquidate 10-15 million tonnes of wheat stock in order to bring down cereal prices, it is feared.