A day after Income Tax (IT) officials conducted searches and served notices to 14 top arhtiyas (commission agents) in Punjab, the Federation of Arhtiya Associations of Punjab on Sunday, 20 December announced the closure of all mandis in the state from 22 to 25 December as a mark of protest against the IT action.
The association also stated that the commission agents will also “gherao” the offices of the officials, reported Indian Express.
Vijay Kalra, the federation’s president, alleged that action by the IT department was a “pressure tactic”.
“They want to harass us we are supporting the farmers’ protests against the Centre’s new agriculture laws,” the daily quoted Kalra as saying.
What Had Happened?
Income tax officials raided the premises of several arhtiyas, including Kalra, on Friday and Saturday. The Income Tax has sent notices to about 16 agents.
Among those who were raided were Vijay Kalra (President, Punjab Arthiya Federation and Vice-Chairman of Punjab Mandi Board), Pawan Kumar Goyal (President of Samana Mandi), Jaswinder Singh Rana (Patiala district president of arhtiyas association), Manjinder Singh Walia (President, Nawanshahr Arhtiya Association), Hardeep Singh Ladda (President, Rajpura Arhtiya Association) and Kartar Singh and Amrik Singh (Rajpura arhtiyas), reported Indian Express.
The raided were the ones who were supporting the farmers’ protest at Delhi border and had sent buses full of arhtiyas and mandi labourers to the protest site, reported the daily.
Manjinder Singh Walia, President, Nawanshahr Arhtiya Association, had told Indian Express that the I-T officials had asked him to appear before the department on 23 December along with documents related to the source of income.
Meanwhile, Punjab Arhtiya Association president Ravinder Singh Cheema said that the Association has decided to go to the Supreme Court against the Income Tax raids.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had also slammed the action by I-T department.
Taking to Twitter, Kejriwal said: “It is completely wrong to harass traders like this. All this is being done to weaken the farmers’ movement. Today the whole country stands with the farmers, how many will the Center raid?” Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.
Farmers’ Union to Intensify Protest
Meanwhile, the farmers who have been protesting at Singhu border from past 26 days slammed the Centre’s move and said that they would escalate their protest from Monday with a 24-hour hunger strike.
“We stand in support of the arhtiyas. We have also decided to gherao Income Tax offices and protest against the action tomorrow. They should return whatever they have seized. They have been raided because they support us. They have helped us a lot, with rations and money.”Indian Express quoted Ruldu Singh Mansa from the Punjab Kisan Morcha as saying
The farmers have also reportedly decided to boycott any NDA constituent who does not back their agitation. On Sunday, 20 December, during a joint press conference at the Singhu border, the farmers unions said: "On 27 December, PM Modi will speak in 'Mann ki Baat' but we want to appeal to all of you to bang utensils till the time the PM is speaking."
(With inputs from TOI, Indian Express)