Arhtiyas’ strike against online payment halts wheat procurement
Ambala/Karnal The wheat procurement that started on April 1 in the state came to a halt on Thursday as the commission agents (arhtiyas) started their indefinite strike against the direct benefit transfer (DBT) mode of payment to farmers.
The strike was announced after a state-level meeting of arhtiyas in Karnal on Tuesday. On the first day of the strike, negligible wheat procurement took place at Ambala grain markets by 3pm. Situation was the same in Karnal and Kurukshetra mandis. In Ambala, around 50 gate passes were issued at Gate No. 1 to the farmers, who unloaded their produce under the sheds but no other work was initiated by the commission agents.
President of the Haryana State Anaj Mandi Arhtiyas’ Association Ashok Gupta made it clear that their strike will continue until the government withdraws the order to pay farmers directly.
“We don’t know why the government is adamant on DBT. We want the government to leave this decision on the farmers as done last year,” he said.
Farmers, on the other hand, accused the government and arhtiyas of harassing them. “Both the government and the arhtiyas are harassing farmers. Harvesting is picking up and the arhtiyas have declared the strike,” said farmer Ramesh Kumar, who was waiting for buyers at Ladwa grain market of Kurukshetra district.
Dhuni Chand, president of a body representing commission agents, said the online payment will affect all and it doesn’t benefit farmers. “The farmers will be allowed to come to the mandis but no loading or packing of their produce will be done by labourers,” he said.
A group of labourers who were relaxing under a shed at Ambala City grain market said they were bound to follow the orders of arhtiyas.
“We don’t know the issue exactly but we can’t go anywhere. We are sitting idle since morning and they’ll call us late at night to start packing,” one of them said.
Dilbar Singh, a farmer from Sambhalkha village of Ambala, said he was aware of the strike but had to come to the mandi to unload his crop.
Ambala deputy commissioner Ashok Kumar Sharma said despite the strike, procurement was initiated at some purchase centres in Naraingarh and Naneola around 2:30pm.
The Haryana Arhtiyas’ Association demanded that the farmers be given an option to choose the mode of payment.
Government officials said they were planning to start the procurement with the help of depot holders. On Thursday, chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar in a video conference told the deputy commissioners and officers of the procurement agencies that the government has already accepted the demand of commission agents to clear their pending commission and labour charges with interest.
He asked the officials to hold talks with arhtiyas. He also asked them to ensure that all the farmers of the state got registered on the ‘Meri Fasal, Mera Bayora’ portal.
Commission agents divided
In Karnal, a group of around 200 arhtiyas decided to join the procurement operations after a meeting with deputy commissioner Nishant Kumar Yadav.
“We have decided to start procurement operations as the government has responded positively to our demands. Strike is not a solution and the arhtiyas should not harass farmers,” said commission agent Dharambir Singh Pada, president of arhtiyas’ association at Karnal grain market.
Accusing Ashok Gupta of misleading the commission agents and harassing farmers, Pada said the option to choose mode of payment should be given to the farmers but strike is not a solution.
Also, the government also started disbursement of payment directly into the bank accounts of farmers on Thursday.
Several farmer unions in the state have already come in the support of the direct payment to farmers.