Wholesale vegetable market observes daylong strike in Delhi

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New Delhi, Aug 5 (ANI): Traders and distributors in India's largest wholesale vegetable and fruit market, the Azadpur Mandi, observed a daylong strike on Thursday here.

The strike came in the wake of the Delhi High Court ruling that compels the wholesalers to levy six percent commission tax onto purchasers, including the everyday consumer, who is already reeling under the spiraling price hike, as opposed to the earlier norm of imposing the tax onto the farmers.

"Today's strike is in protest of a ruling by the APMC (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee) department of the Delhi government seven days ago. They have stated in the order that the Commission, which was earlier imposed on the farmer and the producer, will now be levied on the buyer," said Rajkumar Bhatia, Member, Chamber of Azadpur Mandi.

The new order was passed by the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) after fruit-growers of neighbouring Himachal Pradesh state claimed that the commission agents at the Azadpur fruit and vegetable market extorted huge sums of money as commission charges from them.

Bhatia, however, said that the growers were paying the tax, in the form of commission, for availing the services of the distributor to reach the consumers. Thus the distributor was receiving commission for acting as a middleman between the grower and the purchaser.

"This market is a trading centre. The purchaser here is not the regular vegetable hawker but the ones who buys commodities in wholesale, in bulk, which will ultimately benefit the farmers as they get wholesale rates. They can sell their produce to other smaller wholesale markets. But now, as per the new APMC (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee) ruling, if they give commission as a buyer here, then in some other markets he will have to again give commission as a seller, and this will overburden the purchaser," said Avtar Krishan Gunju, Advisor, Kashmir Apple Merchant Association.

However, the APMC ruling will put the distributor in a tight spot as the purchaser will refuse to shell out extra because after adding the commission rate, the total cost will shoot up by over 15 percent.

"We demand that the old system, in which six percent commission was being taken from the grower, should be employed back. We are giving services as per the earlier norms and the system which was being implemented since ages should run in the same manner," said Medharam Kriplani, President, Chamber of Azadpur Fruit and Vegetable Traders.

Since the last 10 years, the Delhi state government has allowed the marketing board to levy commission charge at six percent but the latest amendment in the legislation, Delhi Agriculture Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act 1998, has now ruled that the tax is levied on the buyers and traders.

Though the Delhi High Court granted a stay on this ruling in June 2010, after the farmers of Himachal Pradesh filed a petition for the ruling to be implemented, the court agreed.

The distributors at the Azadpur wholesale market have threatened to take to the streets and announce indefinite strike if the new order is not taken back. (ANI)

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