Traders at Pune APMC call for grain market to be shut, then do an about-turn


The city heaved a sigh of relief after traders’ associations, who first announced that the foodgrain markets in the city’s Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) at Gultekdi would remain shut indefinitely, later said they would resume business from April 15.

The Poona Merchant’s Chamber had on Monday said it was going on an indefinite strike after alleging that police authorities, while attempting to stringently enforce the lockdown, were inconveniencing tempo and truck drivers attempting to enter Market Yard with their grain-laden vehicles.

The announcement of the strike had sparked fears of the supply of foodgrains to retail markets being badly hit in the wake of the pandemic. With supply being intermittent, long queues have formed outside retail stores in the city and its suburbs. Trade representatives at the chamber had alleged that the authorities were ‘harassing’ tempo drivers and workers in the foodgrains section of the wholesale market.

Commenting on the reason for the shutdown, Nitin Nahar, Poona Merchant’s Chamber, said, “While we certainly support the police’s stern enforcement of lockdown measures, tempo drivers and workers at the yard must not be troubled needlessly. The problem is that the district supply officer has only given limited passes to traders at APMC and not to these workmen, who are not being permitted to enter the yard. Tempo and truck drivers ferrying foodgrains from outside Pune and entering the yard have no option but to stay put in their vehicles.”

He said with the city’s hotels being shut, the workmen often faced a major food problem as they could not offload their cargo.

A meeting in the evening with police authorities, APMC administrators and members of the chamber led to Deputy Commissioner of Police Bachchan Singh assuring that tempo drivers ferrying foodgrains and yard workers would not be inconvenienced.

“While we had earlier announced a shutdown, a fruitful meeting with Bacchan Singh and APMC administrator B.J. Deshmukh among others has led us to reconsider our decision. We will resume business from Wednesday,” said Popatrao Ostwal, president, Poona Merchant’s Chamber.

With the number of COVID-19 positive cases in Pune mounting steadily, divisional authorities and APMC officials had decided last week to shut down Market Yard indefinitely in a bid to discourage assembly. While vehicles with fruits and vegetables were no longer allowed into the yard till the spread of the virus was contained in Gultekdi, it was decided to keep the grain market open.

As the number of positive cases in Pune city touched 250, the cases in rural Baramati shot up to six, with the death of a vegetable vendor causing panic in the city.

While the city has been sealed since Saturday, the APMC in Baramati, too, has been shut, with provisions made for delivering vegetables and fruits to people’s houses. More than 8,000 persons have been quarantined in Baramati till date.

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