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Every day, 32-year-old Sanjeev Kumar Thakur, an aarthiya (middleman) who trades in tomatoes at Azadpur mandi, makes transactions worth about Rs 10 lakh with wholesellers from across Delhi-NCR. But on Wednesday, even after working an hour extra, and rejecting countless Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, he made less than 40 per cent of what he usually does.
By 7.30 am on Wednesday, Thakur had already turned away four wholesellers. One of them, Ram Shankar, 35, owns a grocery store in northwest Delhi’s Adarsh Nagar. Shankar said he needed 20 kg tomatoes, but since he only had Rs 500 notes, he had to “go back empty-handed”.
Pointing to a truck full of tomatoes, Thakur said, “Since the announcement, there is confusion all around. I can’t risk taking big notes,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want to give vegetables on credit because most buyers have previous dues.
About 300 metres away, 40-year-old aarthiya Titu had a different problem. Two chilli farmers were refusing to leave until he paid them in notes of Rs 100 or less. “How do I pay the farmers who have come from far? Some of them don’t even have a bank account,” Titu said.
Chilli farmer Bhagat Singh, who arrived from Jafrabad at 3 am, said he was on his way to the mandi when he got a call from home. “My wife told me not to take Rs 1,000 or Rs 500 notes. The aarthiya owes me Rs 20,000,” said Singh, adding that he would wait until the end of the day for the cash.
Like Titu’s and Singh’s, most stalls in the mandi saw discussions and arguments on the same issue. In the absence of an alternative, most small retailers accepted Rs 500 notes from customers after bit of convincing.
Agricultural Produce Market Committee deputy secretary Babu Lal said, “Business was hit but we will be able to understand the impact only in a few days.”
Azadpur mandi is Asia’s largest wholesale fruits and vegetables market spanning 90 acres. In the 2015-16 fiscal, the mandi saw an annual transaction of more than Rs 9,000 crore, the APMC, which governs the mandi, said.