By Jaideep Sarin Chandigarh : After having spent over Rs.200 crore ($30 million) on constructing farmer-specific agro-Malls, the Haryana government has 'realised' that marketing of agricultural produce through them is not "practical".
The new BJP government in Haryana is considering converting the agro-malls into general malls so that these can be utilised.
The agro-malls were launched at four places - Panchkula, Karnal, Panipat and Rohtak - by the previous Congress government of chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The agro-malls were announced in 2008 and were completed in 2013-14.
Haryana Agriculture Minister O.P. Dhankar felt the concept of agro-malls was "not practical" and they had thus remained a non-starter.
The agro-mall in Rohtak, Hooda's hometown, was built for over Rs 76 crore and the other three for Rs.50 crore to Rs.55 crore each, agriculture department officials told IANS.
The then government had proposed that the ground floor of the malls would be used to sell agricultural goods and equipment to farmers while the top floor was to have multiplexes.
And there lies the hub. A facility that was essentially meant for rural folk was located in urban areas where farmers would rarely tread. Then, city folk would hardly venture into a multiplex located in a building from whose ground floor agricultural produce and equipment were being sold.
"The decision of the previous government to set up four agro-malls was unsuitable as there is a huge difference in marketing of agricultural and industrial produce. Marketing of agricultural produce through agro-mall is not practical," Dhankar said.
"The government is considering converting these agro-malls into general malls. But the revenue generated through the malls would be utilized for the welfare of farmers," the minister said.
The malls have been in controversy earlier too.
A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report in March 2013 had rapped the Haryana government for initiating work on the agro-malls without even finalizing the project reports and other details.
"The works were conceived and allotted without finalizing their actual requirements, detailed project reports, approved designs and drawings and assessing the complete scope of work," the CAG report pointed out.
"There was also lack of planning in formulating the projects and contract agreements as the main conditions of levying of penalty on account of non-completion of work in time and deduction of welfare cess were not incorporated in the contract agreements," the report said.
Haryana, along with neighbouring Punjab, is a leading state in foodgrain production. It has seen the record arrival of nearly 5.6 million tonnes of paddy this season compared to a target of only 3.6 million tonnes.(IANS)