Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Video Producer: Hera Khan
Commission agents known as 'arhtiyas' shut mandis across Punjab from 22 to 25 December as a mark of protest against income tax raids conducted on them.
The Federation of Arhtiya Associations of Punjab alleged that the raids were conducted to intimidate them for supporting the agitation against Centre’s farm laws.
Reportedly, income tax officials have served notices to at least 14 top arhtiyas.
Vijay Kalra, the federation’s president, alleged that the action by the IT department was a “pressure tactic”.
“Central government has stooped to a new low. It wants to suppress our leaders of Punjab. That’s why they’re ordering Income Tax raids on them. By bringing along CRPF and police force they’re trying to scare the arhtiyas so that we stop supporting the farmers. We won’t let the government succeed in this.”Jagtar Singh Samra, District President, Arhtiya Association, Sangrur
Who Are 'Arhtiyas'?
'Arhtiyas' or commission agents provide services to farmers after they bring their produce to the Agricultural Produce Market Committee or APMC market yard.
They act as a link between the farmers and the buyers.
Why Are They Supporting the Ongoing Farmers' Protest?
Arhtiyas are backing farmers' protest because they fear that with the implementation of the new laws the APMC market will lose relevance and they will lose work.
What Had Happened?
Income tax officials raided the premises of several arhtiyas, including Vijay Kalra, the President of Punjab Arthiya Federation and Vice-Chairman of Punjab Mandi Board. The Income Tax also sent notices to at least 14 agents.
Reportedly, those 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.
"This strategy of the government aims at weakening the farmers' agitation. They have raided the homes of the arhtiyas. It's a very cheap trick," said a trader.
Jagtar Singh Samra, District President of the Arhtiya Association, Sangrur also stated that the commission agents will henceforth “gherao” the Income Tax officials who come to raid them.
“They’ve conducted around 8-10 raids by now. If any ITO team comes to any APMC mandi we arhtiyas and the farmers will gather and won’t let the ITO team cross through.”