The ‘arthiyas’ in Punjab Friday said they will go on strike on April 10, the first day of the Rabi procurement season, to protest against the state government’s decision to implement direct bank transfer (DBT) of the minimum support price (MSP) to farmers bypassing them.
“All 27,000 arthiyas (commission agents) across Punjab will observe the strike. We will boycott the procurement and keep the mandis closed. We will allow the farmers to unload the produce but would not undertake any other operation. Let the government decide how to handle this glut,” Federation of Arthiya Association president Vijay Kalra said.
State Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal on Thursday had said the state government was left with “no choice” but to implement the DBT scheme from the current season as Centre said it will not lift the grains if the new system was not followed.
On Friday, Amarjeet Singh Brar, senior vice president of Punjab Arhtiya Federation said, “All our shops inside over 150 mandis of Punjab will remain closed on Saturday as well as on Sunday and we will not participate in any procurement drive.”
20,000 e-passes issued
Meanwhile, more than 20,000 e-passes for procurement have been issued to ahrtiyas by Punjab Mandi Board which have to be distributed to the farmers who will be coming to mandis Saturday morning for selling their crops.
Punjab Mandi Board chairman Lal Singh Friday said the government has set up Covid-19 vaccination camps in all 154 market committees to ensure seamless wheat procurement. To avoid crowd and congestion in the mandis, the number of purchase centres has been increased from 1,872 to 4,000 with the target to procure 130 lakh tonnes (LT) of wheat, he said, adding the state government is “fully committed to procuring every single grain of wheat from the mandis”. However, if the cleaning and filling of grains in sacks is not taken up, there could be a glut of wheat in the mandis.
Talks with govt yield no result
The Arhtiyas Association of Punjab, led by Ravinder Singh Cheema, was first to announce the strike after discussions during a virtual meeting with Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, Food Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu, and PWD Minister Vijay Inder Singla failed.
Kalra announced his association’s decision in the evening. Kalra said they were “hopeful that the Punjab government will come out with some suggestions over the issue”. “Arthiyas will also hold a state-level meeting at Ludhiana on Saturday to chalk out the next course of action once the Punjab government puts forward its suggestions on the MSP payment to farmers,” he added.
Cheema said as the Punjab government was not able to protect the “rights of arhtiyas”, they will tell the government about their importance. “If arhtiyas are not needed in the system, why is wheat sold at Rs 1,100 per quintal in UP? The arhtiyas work for 16-18 hours a day to handle the quantum of the produce harvested in Punjab. Only then it is handled. Let them try out the operations without the participation of arhtiyas this time. They will understand,” said Cheema.
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