Tamil Nadu’s first farmers’ market is still alive and kicking

It is nearly 20 years since former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi inaugurated Tamil Nadu’s first uzhavar sandhai or farmers’ market. The concept, which was replicated across the State in 104 locations, continues to be widely successful in Madurai. This landmark in Anna Nagar draws at least 6,000 customers on weekends, claim farmers and officials of the Agriculture department.

Agricultural Officer S. Suresh says that farmers arrive from Nayakkanpatti, Karadikkal, Melur and hilly areas like Mannavanur and Pallangi to sell a variety of vegetables here. “Farmers leave at about 4.30 a.m. in buses and goods carriers from their respective villages to reach the market. Most of them have been with us for over 10 years. The essence of the place is unchanged,” he says.

Despite patronage from customers and sizeable endowments from the State government, MLAs and NGOs, facilities at the market could still get a face lift.

At least 100 farmers sell their produce at the market on a weekend and between 75 and 80 during a weekday, says Mr. Suresh. However, the issue of inadequate toilets torments farmers. The market has only four toilets for men and three for women. They are in disrepair with their doors cracked and broken. The stench of urine permeates the air and there are hardly any lights.

K. K. Kalyani, chairman of Kariapatti Farmers Producers Company, says, “With a large number of farmers making their way to the market in the morning, there is a need for better toilet facilities.” G. Valliamma, a vendor from Chekkanoorani who sells tomatoes, agrees. Mr. Kalyani says that it is particularly difficult for women to use the toilet in the morning as there is not enough lighting. These toilets, which were built 20 years ago, were last renovated 15 years back, says an official from the Agriculture department. No improvements have taken place so far, he confirms.

Apart from the toilets, the ground surrounding the market, which has clay, becomes sludgy in the rain. “When it rains, the market gets inundated. Customers find it difficult to walk through the sludge,” says an employee.

V. Murugan, another farmer, says that the place is in dire need of proper drinking water facility. Both customers and farmers face problems, particularly during summer.

“We shell out money to buy 10 water cans from private companies everyday,” he says.

Mr. Kalyani says that frequent power cuts add to the woes of farmers. “We are unable to use the electronic weighing machines and instead use physical balance which maybe inaccurate,” he says.

A senior official from the Agriculture department says that they provide 60 weighing machines, along with 20 weighing scales as a back up, to farmers.

“It will be useful if more weighing machines are allocated,” he says.

Although no official proposal has been made to revamp the model, the market is being maintained with funds made available to the department each month, confirms the official. “We hope the department makes this a model market,” he says.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 3:21:32 AM |

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