Strike slows business at Azadpur Mandi, traders warn of more protestshttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/strike-slows-business-at-azadpur-mandi-traders-warn-of-more-protests-4776542/

Strike slows business at Azadpur Mandi, traders warn of more protests

While some of the traders organised a dharna on July 19 — with a few sitting on a two-day hunger strike — many closed their sheds on Monday in protest.

Azadpur mandi, the largest in Asia, wore a deserted look on Monday. Tashi Tobgyal

The usually busy and crammed streets of Azadpur mandi wore a deserted look on Monday evening as a section of fruit and vegetable traders shut shop. Complaining of “corruption in the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC, Azadpur)” and “encroachment of some sheds by new traders”, a group of old-timers sat in protest under a tent. Tomato trader Puran Chand, 59, said, “I’ve been in this business for 30 years. On June 20, my area was illegally occupied by another firm… I’m suffering major losses.” Another tomato trader, 50-year-old Tilak Raj, recounted a similar tale: “I have barely bought two boxes of tomatoes since June 20… I’ve told the labourers to find a job elsewhere because I have no work to give.”

While some of the traders organised a dharna on July 19 — with a few sitting on a two-day hunger strike — many closed their sheds on Monday in protest. Stating that closing the mandi meant “incurring a loss of Rs 30-40 crore daily”, Anil Malhotra, general secretary of Azadpur Vegetable Traders’ Body, said, “We demand that the sheds be given back to those who won the bid… We also demand insurance for wage labourers and a proper security system, as well maintaining cleanliness in the area.”

He added, “Initially, they (the committee) would accept cheques for market fee payments. Now we can only pay online… Every trader is not well-versed with this; how can they force us?” Sources in the Delhi government, meanwhile, maintained that the “vegetable mandi was in fact open, while the fruit mandi was partially shut”. A source said, “This was a politically motivated non-strike… the Delhi government will not bow down to blackmail.”

Reacting to accusations by the traders, Satnam Singh, secretary, APMC (Azadpur), said, “The issue is of allotment… This faction did not let the new allotment of sheds happen in 2016. They don’t want reform, which is why they’re also against online payment of market fee. The country is moving towards digitisation but they don’t want to.” He added, “As far as cleanliness is concerned, this is a 24X7 mandi and we do our best. The corruption charges are also baseless.”

While the traders have called off the strike as a meeting is scheduled with the APMC on Tuesday, they added, “If our demands aren’t met, we’ll shut down all four mandis of Delhi, go on a hunger strike and block Adarsh Nagar Metro station.”