• There are 36,000 licensed commission agents in Punjab, plus many more sub agents. These license agents are called ‘Arhtiyas’. Commission agent charges commission (arhat) from the buyers.
  • These licensed agents earned Rs 1,600 crore as commission fee last year as over the line income. This translates to about 4.5 lacs per commission agent. That’s only from what the Govt pays them.
  • They also lend money to farmers and others. Their rate, at its lowest, is 1.5% per month (or 18% per year).
  • Thus, a lot of the political money is parked with them cos they get the best return on investment. Remember, Industry has reduced drastically in Punjab, thus political money can’t be parked there. This income is manifold of the official income.
  • They are the go between for almost all Farm purchases, be it seeds, fertilisers, tractors…what have you.
  • They therefore are, some might say, the new zamindars (in terms of economic control, power, clout), as they have direct control over farmers and their livelihood.
  • There are many farmers who are also Arhtiyas and vice versa. They are all the BIG players.
  • Back, when demonetization happened, it’s reputed that the Arhtiyas cycled the money of the political parties by channeling the cash deposits to farmers as payment of loan and interest in the books, and then allow the farmers to payback the real loan with softer credit over 2 years. Essentially, they converted the money and also made his 18% as also circulated his principle twice over within 2 years.
  • They are the ones who own the guns and muscle power in Punjab. Essentially for security and repo purpose. But guns are guns. They are also the most landed of the gentry.
  • They act as land tract managers for those who have gone abroad and manage their farms by giving them a percentage return. Essentially they are the controller of rural income of Punjab.
  • Traditionally, two castes, namely, Banias and Khatris (Aroras) dominated in this business. But, over time, they have on account of various reasons moved out and it is majorly controlled by Jatt Sikhs. The 15 year rule of Akalis also helped towards that.
  • They are also the greatest contributors to the Gurdwaras, by way of their social setting.
  • In Gurudwaras the Nihangs have started taking a prominent role. This is on account of various factors. The Nihangs also have a great coordination with the Gurudwaras in Europe, North America etc.
  • The Arhtiyas, being the go to middleman, and on account of their proximity to Gurdwara as also non-resident Sikhs (land is mostly owned by Sikhs, the Hindus were made to or have left rural Punjab since the troubles of Khalistan movement) they are also the ones who approve and facilitate who gets to go abroad. In this, they are both the body shoppers as also the placement agency commissioners. Thus those who go abroad are beholden to them and the Gurdwaras.
  • Punjab has become mono-culture agriculture having shifted to predominantly Wheat and Paddy. This is cos Punjab was made the breadbasket in the 60s and the Govt procurement happened from Punjab and Haryana predominantly.
  • Over 70% of Govt procurement in wheat happens from Punjab. Paddy, irrespective of not being a natural crop, is sown cos electricity is free. Thus they can irrigate farms for free. It’s a separate issue that the water tables are being cleared off on account of that.
  • The current pattern of farming (of Wheat and Paddy) and APMC purchase provides them with the primary control towards all nodes of their other business and the assured income on the basis of which they can plan out their other secondary incomes.
  • Once the Bill was passed, they realised that their primary source of income would be jeopardised. Cos now, instead of selling through them, farmers could sell directly. Not just that, the Govt was withdrawing from the procurement business in itself. Now, if they operated, they would have to operate in a competitive market.
  • Secondly, they have no role to play in Contract farming, cos the contractors would directly pay to the farmer/farmer group. They would also advance them credit, provide them with seeds, monitor them, etc. Thus, their secondary incomes are all jeopardised.
  • Thirdly, the grand role they played of real estate management could also slip out of hand, cos now there are other players and indeed there can be online players. Say, you had land in Punjab, and were sitting in London, you could put your parcel of land up, appoint an on-ground manager and invite bids for the land parcel cultivation for the year OR yourself bid for some contract farming projects. Not just that, all the requirements for which you counted on Arhtyias could now be solved by a farming-uber or similar facilitator/aggregator solution.
  • In this, it isn’t as if the Arhtiyas can’t play any part. They are knowledge aggregators and facilitators with ground knowledge, they could easily facilitate any new system, BUT, for that, they’d have to work. Now things are on autopilot.
  • So as to not change, they started rising a hue and cry. They first pushed the panic amongst the workers and labourers of the Mandi. Around three lakh workers are engaged in loading and unloading activities at the Mandis and their income was Rs 1,100 crore last year. Now they have about 3.5 lacs who are rising hue and cry.
  • Congress, which has been kept out of the APMC and were on the lookout for a foothold, and had been looking for a means to step into the scene, decided to flame the fires of Arhtiyas.
  • As APMCs are mostly controlled by Akali Dal, they leaned on their political contacts. Akali Dal, who had co authored and supported the Bill with BJP, realised they couldn’t into an election year with a ruffled Arhtiyas nor did they want to lose their turf. They stepped out of NDA, to secure Arhtiyas.
  • By now, Arhtiyas had started leaning on their Gurdwara contacts. Remember, they are the largest donors to Gurdwara. The Gurdwaras started to raise voices. BUT instead of stating that let’s support Arhtiyas, they went ‘The Bill is anti-Farmers’!
  • The Arhtiyas, in the meanwhile, were already fanning the narrative that the Bill is Anti-Farmers. The farmers, themselves were keeping away and were mostly paying lip service. That is the educated farmers. The non-educated were already in the sway. As the mob started assembling, fence sitters also joined in.
  • By now, through the Gurdwaras as also their own contacts in Canada, US and UK, the non-resident Sikhs were being reached. Most of these places are in any way pro-Khalistan/India hate. What have you. The urban legend of ‘Hateful Modi/Tyrannical Modi’s anti-farmer Bill’ was born, through which people just bought in that Modi was trying to ‘fix’ the farmers of Punjab. Nobody asked ‘how?’ and ‘why?’. Sikhs love to hate Modi in any way. How and why? that will be a separate post.
  • Concurrently, ALL the Khalistani agents who had been trying to spark something off in Punjab, and hadn’t gotten adequate traction in any way, got a ’cause celebre’, and they decided to go to town with it. This sparked a huge funding campaign. They were in anyway trying to ‘internationalise’ the whole issue.
  • The Arhtiyas, themselves decided to pool in money to organise the protest and pay the people to protest. It’s said that they collected 2 lacs per head min. That, for 36,000 is about 700 Crs. The richer gave even more. Some in Crores. Plus there were also ‘community collections’- That 700 Crs was the tip of the iceberg. Shortly, foreign funds were flowing in which dwarfed their corpus.
  • The ‘Farmers Protest’ swung into action. It was called a ‘Farmers Protest’ cos calling it a ‘Arhtiyas Protest’ would be akin to trying to sell sympathy for a Zamindar’s protest.
  • They needed legitimacy. The legitimacy would have to come from a farmers body. This legitimacy needed to be bought if necessary.
  • It essentially consisted of Arhtiyas, their employees, the Mandi labours, some farmers and Gurdwara volunteers. However, Arhtiyas are the largest spenders of their community economy, thus service providers to the economy also have pitched in as a token of their support. The blessings of Farm Bills are in the distant future. The Arhtiyas are there right now.
  • Also, given it is winters in Canada and US, and low season for many self owned Business, many NR-Sikhs who have come ‘home’ have joined in.- Celebrities have their own reasons, compulsions and motivations to join in. And when the joining in is looked upon as hallowed and righteous, it’s a double win engagement!
  • Seeing the money flowing in, and why miss an opportunity to dip one’s fingers into the motherlode, BKU joined in.
  • Soon it has converted itself into a picnic. People have already sown in their winter crops. They needn’t return to their fields before February. They might as well enjoy.
  • Like all rural Melas, there’s also money to be made and business opportunities here.
  • Seeing the traction growing, the Congress and Akali had no other alternative than to also start contributing. Moreover, for Congress it would mean an opportunity to get BJP on the mat.
  • The issue was, they had only one demand, which was to ‘Repeal the Bill’. But they had no explanation towards WHY they wanted the Bill repealed. After all, farmers from all over India were wanting these changes implemented. They sought help as to how they could flesh the demands, while they staved off.- Now AAP, through their ‘special’ Sikh contacts abroad were asked to step in. They also want to, given the election next year.
  • By now Yogendra Yadav and other Left decided to get their own slice of the circus. Thus they joined in. All tried to help flesh the demands. Which led to the first list of demands, in which everyone who could, put in their own condition for the ransom note.
  • The note was so ridiculous that they could go nowhere with it. After all, they have to work their demand document backwards from an objective which Arhtiyas want, but have to pass that off as farmers demand. These factors they are not being able to generate.
  • By now they realised that it is a very ‘Sikh’ (Jatt Sikh at that) and a ‘Punjab’ protest. They needed to show it as more ‘National’. Nobody was coming, beyond the Haryanvis who had been agitating on some other ground of reservation. Thus, they sent the call out through Gurdwaras to call in participants from other states.
  • Sikh farmers settled in Gujarat, Uttrakhand, Terai, MP, Rajasthan were called in so as try try and represent states and give it a ‘National’ colour. A part of that colour is being provided by parties who go against BJP, but very selectively, cos neither do they want to rile their own farmers base.
  • The Left have promised to get some in through their farmers union in Maharashtra.
  • The agitators now realise that they have numbers, but they don’t have a strategy nor a tenable objective. If their objective comes out, the fact that it isn’t farmers but it is an Arhtiya project is exposed. Tweaking the farm bill, which addresses the true concerns of the farmers will solve the issue for the farmers. Not for them.
  • They also realise that the demand is very Punjab centric. Even if they succeed at repealing the Bill, the skew of APMC procurement towards Punjab will come into scrutiny. Therefore they are now trying to include ALL crops and ALL production,which of course is ludicrous. Now they can neither move forward nor retreat.
  • The opposition has agreed to provide some support to keep the agitation up in a holding pattern so that they can generate noise and harass BJP.
  • The Khalistanis want the agitation to continue cos they are getting that one chance to have a hot topic to push their cause.
  • The money coming in from abroad has now called in investigation and Arhtiyas are now going into scrutiny.
  • The agitation is taking up its own steam now, and can only get destructive, cos there is neither leadership nor objective.
  • Thus we have a circus which was started by opportunism, and is being pushed along with opportunism, but can only meander along cos it can’t withstand inspection and scrutiny.
  • The end result of this is Punjab is going to enter a dark spiral. The one which it created on its own. It’s image will take a greater beating.

If you look into all writings BEFORE June 2020, you will find that all of the articles are scathing towards Arhtiyas. P Sainath, who is now the darling of these Arhiya and is now trying to drum up support for ‘Farmers Andolan’, was, only a few years back exposing these very Arhtiyas.
You can read it here: https://ruralindiaonline.org/…/punjabs-arhtiyas-sins…/

There are many many more, by various authors, AS LONG AS the writing is pre-June 2020. Subsequently, from September, there’s a concentrated effort to pain them as heros.

IF you ask ANYONE of the protestors for a diss of the bills and the ills of tyranny they contain, you’ll never get a cogent presentation.

IF you ask ANYONE about the timeline and sequence of events which has brought this about, notice the number of gaps which are there.

ALWAYS remember, that this agitation was done for selfish, self aggrandising purpose of a few who have been indulging themselves of a system in the year when the country was down on account of a pandemic AND China attacked us. Do spend some thoughts on the nationalism of these people, their motivation and the various hates which drive them. This agitation will go, but the haters won’t. Their faces have been exposed.

DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.