A mahapanchayat of traders from across the state was organised in Pathankot to protest against deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal's alleged derogatory reference to traders.
Sukhbir is alleged to have referred to the state's traders as 'chors' (thieves). The statement was reported in some sections of vernacular media on August 29.
The traders under the leadership of Punjab Beopar Mandal president Amrit Lal Jain decided to launch a stir against the alleged remark. The traders have also decided to oppose the recently imposed taxes.
The traders expressed bitterness at the new proposal of the excise and taxation department to implement a system of e-trip in the state. The measure entails online booking and delivery of goods across and the government wants to use it to check tax evasion. The idea is to inform the excise and taxation office whenever an order worth more than a specified limit is to be delivered.
"The e-trip system is illegal and is being introduced to harass the traders. It is impossible to implement in the state due to heavy traffic and lot of barricades."
Addressing a large gathering, Jain said: "Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has always acted wisely and never harassed traders. However, his son Sukhbir who holds the excise and taxation portfolio is leading to huge differences between the government and the traders due to his immature and illogical policies."
He added that if such an environment continued in the state, traders might also be forced to commit suicide.
Very angry at being referred to as thieves, he said that traders were an important part of the economy and they also had loans and interest rates to pay to the banks.
He alleged that excise and taxation department officials harassed the traders every day. Instead of solving this issue, Sukhbir was creating new hurdles in the development of industry in the state.
He added that the legal cell of their body was contemplating approaching court against some of the newly imposed taxes.
He said that the mandal will organise a state-level bandh on September 20, but essential services like health and schools would be exempted.
He also said that if the policies were not taken back, the mandal will organise sit-ins and gherao the residences of ministers and MLA.
Secretary of the mandal LR Sodhi has also demanded an apology from Sukhbir for his alleged remarks.