Other States

Agents to shut Punjab mandis in protest against I-T raids

In memoriam: Farmers at the Ghazipur border paying tributes to those who died during the protests.   | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

Following raids by the Income Tax department on several commission agents (arhtiya) in Punjab, they have decided to close the mandis in the State for an indefinite period as a mark of protest.

They allege that the I-T raids were politically motivated as many commission agents have been extending support to the ongoing farmers’ agitation.

Punjab Arhtiya Association president Ravinder Singh Cheema said on Sunday that the association had decided to shut the mandis across the State from December 21, as a mark of protest against what he termed a “revengeful act”.

‘Joint struggle’

“These I-T raids are act of revenge against the participation of arhtiya in the ongoing agitation of farmers. We are not just extending support to the farmers alone, the commission agents have their own set of concerns in the new farm laws. We are protesting to save our business and interests. It’s a joint struggle of farmers and commission agents,” said Mr. Cheema on Sunday.

“There’s a clear attempt to scuttle democracy. We are being suppressed from legitimately expressing our protest against the new farm laws. The current scenario seems to that of imposition of continuous emergency. We can’t even protest as per our constitutional right. If we protest, steps to suppress us are being taken,” he added. Mr. Cheema said the Punjab Arhtiya Federation had also extended its support for closing of mandis.

To approach SC

“We have decided to go to the Supreme Court against the Income Tax raids. We will keep the mandis closed till such witch-hunt is not stopped. Also, we have spoken to farmer unions on the issue, and a joint action surrounding it will be taken soon,” he said.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on December 19 said the I-T raids were conducted on the premises of several big arhtiyas of Punjab within a span of just four days of issuing notices, without waiting for responses to the notices. He dubbed it a clear debasement of the due process of law. Even the local police were not informed or taken into confidence, as was the normal procedure, and instead, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was used to provide security during the raids.

Farmers’ unions have criticised the I-T raids, terming it an attempt to weaken the ongoing agitation against farm laws. Leaders of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan), one of the largest farmer unions in Punjab, along with the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) condemned the I-T raids, and stated that the Central government was trying to intimidate all those supporting the agitation.

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Printable version | Jun 20, 2021 12:31:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/agents-to-shut-punjab-mandis-in-protest-against-i-t-raids/article33379412.ece

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