Commission agents in Punjab to keep mandis shut indefinitely

‘I-T raids politically motivated’

Commission agents (arthiya) in Punjab on Tuesday shut their shops at grain mandis (markets) indefinitely across the State as a mark of protest against what they termed “motivated” raids conducted by the Income Tax department in the past few days.

“We will continue to keep them shut until the Central government assures us we will not be harassed. We are of the firm view that the I-T raids against the commission agents were politically motivated. We want the government to assure us that there won’t be any more revengeful raids,” Ravinder Singh Cheema, president, Punjab Arthiya Association, told The Hindu.

Mr. Cheema said farmer outfits and commission agents had jointly decided to continue their struggle against the new farm laws. “We will now fight with double the force. Also, we have decided that if anymore raids are conducted, farmers and commission agents will jointly stage peaceful protests at the place where the raid is conducted,” he said.

“The government needs to understand that commission agents have their own set of concerns surrounding the new farm laws. We are protesting to save our business and interests. Farmers and commission agents are supporting each other but both have their own concerns,” he said. He added the Punjab Arthiya Federation was also participating in the ongoing strike.

“We will soon be holding a joint meeting with farmer outfits and decide on future course of action. How to mobilise the protests beyond the indefinite strike will be the key issue of discussion,” said Mr. Cheema.

Last week, I-T raids were conducted on the premises of several big commission agents of Punjab within a span of just four days of issuing notices, without waiting for responses to the notices, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had stated.

Meanwhile, farmers under the banner of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) held processions in several villages in memory of those who had died during the ongoing agitation.

The general secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Union-Ekta (Dakaunda), Jagmohan Singh, said the reported deaths by suicide in the last few days during the ongoing struggle were a matter of concern.

“The struggle is the only solution, our struggle may go on for a long time, but we will force the government to bow down. We have forced the government to listen to our demands through the peaceful agitation. No one should take the extreme step of committing suicide,” he said.

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