As the commission agents and a section of traders of the Rajkot Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) continued their indefinite strike for the ninth day on Tuesday, the APMC board asked the group to wind up their protests within two days or their licences ‘could be suspended.’
Rajkot APMC’s Commission Agents Association had earlier complained of mosquito infestation near the bank of Aji river, where the APMC Sardar Patel Market yard is located, and warned of a shutdown. Even as yard authorities assured them, commission agents and a section of traders and labourers observed a bandh on February 17, demanding immediate action to clear vegetation from the river’s dam.
As protesters occupied the Rajkot-Morbi state highway on the same day, police asked them to clear the blockade and resorted to mild lathicharge when the crowd did not budge. The protesters allegedly threw stones at police in which three constables sustained minor injuries. Police booked over 30 people, including Rajkot APMC Commission Agents Association president Atul Kamani, the APMC board of directors, APMC member Vallabh Pachani and a mob of around 300 for rioting, among other charges.
As the strike entered the ninth day on Tuesday, APMC chairman Devraj Sakhaiya told The Indian Express, “We have told the protesters to end the strike in two days… farmers, labourers, businessmen all are suffering due to the shutdown. We are confident that the commission agents and traders will respond to our request. However, if they don’t, we shall resume operations of the yard with the help of cooperative societies which would work as commission agents, and ask commission agents and traders to submit their licences. We may also suspend their licences if required.”
Sakhiya further said that the issue of mosquito infestation on the yard had been addressed by regular fogging on the yard, as well as the spraying of insecticides on the floating vegetation in the river. He said that the operation of removing water hyacinth — a floating aquatic vegetation locally called gandi vel (wild creeper) — is still on under the direction of the Rajkot district collector.
Kamani, however, said, “We are not protesting against the mosquito infestation but against the police case against 32 people,” he said, adding they would resume work only after the FIR is quashed. Pachani, who represents commission agents and traders on the 17-member board of directors of APMC, said, “We are all common people against whom the case has been slapped. If this case is withdrawn, we will resume our operations soon…This is our bread and butter,” he said.
With the APMC yard located upstream the Aji-II dam, sewage water of a large part of Rajkot city drains into the river. Water hyacinth has invaded the dam waters in recent years, with traders complaining that the vegetation has proved to be the hot bed of mosquitoes whose swarms descend onto the yard, threatening the health of workers, commission agents and farmers.
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