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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Farmers want arhtiyas out, demand direct payments


Farmers want arhtiyas out, demand direct payments

Parvesh Sharma

Tribune News Service

Sangrur, August 12

Avtar Singh, a farmer from Kheri village, said, “My father had taken Rs 40,000 loan from an arhtiya in 2006 and repaid it. But later by forging documents, the arhtiya showed an outstanding of Rs 3 lakh towards us and we had to pay them Rs 2.5 lakh more to save our land. Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s recent announcement to keep arhtiya system alive in the state has dashed our hopes.”

Like Avtar Singh, hundreds of farmers with small landholdings have not been able to come out of the debt cycle. “It is politically, socially and economically regressive for farmers who want to come out of the debt cycle. The government should help farmers instead of commission agents,” said Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, General Secretary, BKU, Ugrahan.

The CM’s announcement to continue with the system of making payments to farmers through arhtiyas has multiplied the anger of farmers who have been demanding direct payment for the past many years.

There are many other farmers who have been alleging fraud by arhtiyas and with the help of various farmer unions, they have prevented auctions of their lands. They allege that their worst fears have come true as the CM had taken stand in the favor of arhtiyas.

However, defending the existence of arhtiyas, Food and Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu said the Punjab Agricultural Produce Markets Act, 1961, protects the rights of arhtiyas. “They are integral part of the system. A previous attempt by the state government few years ago to give direct payments to farmers did not have many takers. The Centre only wants transparency and details of the payments made through arhtiyas to farmers,” he said.

Sunam-based farmer Balwinder Singh said, “Earlier farmers used to take as much loan as they needed, but now arhtiyas have stopped it and they have also become suspicious about a majority of farmers. When we go to banks, they have lots of formalities. Everything is not lost as yet as many farmers still have good relations with arhtiyas.”

“Since arhtiyas are influential in the state and they provide finance and muscle power to politicians, no one from the government could dare to think against them. They are charging interest as per their wishes while farmers’ suicides are on the rise, but still our CM wants to stand by the arhtiyas,” said Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan.

“Had farm unions not been there, farmers would have lost their all lands to arhtiyas by now in the state. Only unions are protecting farmers while all other authorities are playing into their hands,” he said.

Ravinder Singh Cheema, president of arhtiya association, said, “Farmers’ suicides are being highlighted, but hundreds of arhtiyas have also committed suicides after facing bankruptcy when farmers refused to return money. Every year arhtiyas are quitting their business. Mansa, Bathinda, Fazilka, Fridkot and Sangrur are the worst-affected areas. We do not have any problem if a farmer wants to take direct payment, but he must inform arhtiyas in advance.”

On the other hand, arhtiyas alleged that farm unions were the main culprit for spoiling their relations with farmers. As per figures shared by the Arhtiya Association Punjab, in 2000, there were around 31,500 arhtiyas in 152 grain markets of the state.

But now the number has gone down to 23,900 after clashes started between farmers and arhtiyas. Around 100 arhtiyas are facing FIRs after farmers committed suicides when they launched court proceedings to recover their amounts. Around 2,000 arhtiyas are still waiting to take possession of lands of defaulter farmers despite winning cases in courts.


31,500 arhtiyas  in 152 grain markets in 2000

23,900 Present number after farmer-arhtiya clashes

100 arhtiyas facing FIRs for farm suicides

2,000 arhtiyas still waiting to take possession of land of defaulters


It is politically, socially and economically regressive for farmers who want to come out of the debt cycle. The govt should help farmers instead of commission agents — Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, General secretary, BKU (ugrahan)

Arhtiyas are integral part of the system. A previous attempt by the state govt few years ago to give direct payment to farmers didn’t have many takers— Bharat Bhushan Ashu, Cabinet minister 

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