Traders at the agriculture produce market committee (APMC)’s yard in Kalamna went on a daylong strike on Tuesday, protesting against the imposition of 1.05% mandi cess on purchases. The traders asserted that if the farm produce market was liberalized, APMC areas should be exempt from the cess too.
The state government has allowed free trade of agriculture items, which was earlier restricted to the designated APMC areas only. If traders outside APMC areas don’t have to pay any cess, it affects the competitiveness of those within. APMC may eventually end up losing all the business due to it, said the traders.
The market at Kalamna is dubbed to be the largest in Asia. It is divided into segments dealing in commodities like grains, fruits, vegetables, red chilies, onions, potatoes, and livestock.
Former APMC director Rajesh Chabrani claimed the strike was undertaken in the entire area. “The government should either reduce the cess to 0.35%, or collect a lump sum amount from traders — to be used for maintenance of the area,” he said. In a day, all traders together clock in a business of over Rs25 crore, he said.
Pratap Motwani, the secretary of grain merchants’ association, said if the cess was not withdrawn, the traders may go on an indefinite strike.
Traders also said the market yard was fast emerging as a source of Covid-19 infection. Each day, thousands of persons — including farmers — visit the market from various parts of the country.
In some segments, as many as 2,000-3,000 persons throng the area during the auctions. This could lead to an easy spread of infection.
In the majority of the segments, the produce is physically auctioned at the shops, based on which rates are derived. A large number of persons gather during a trading time, said a source.
Traders said there maybe around 2 to 25 Covid-19 positive cases in each segment of the market.
The government must create awareness in the market and also restrict the operations to three days in a week, said a trader, requesting anonymity.
(With inputs from TimesOfIndia)