Jaspal Setia, 54, committed suicide about four months ago. He wasn’t a farmer, but an arhtiya or commission agent at Amritsar’s Bhagtanwala grain market. The reason for the extreme step was the Rs 2.5 crore or so that he had advanced to farmers and small rice millers (shellers), and couldn’t recover.
“His family was in the arhat business for over six decades. But the stress from the blocked money he just couldn’t take. This was more so because these funds which he had lent had been largely borrowed from banks, relatives and businessmen, who were themselves seeking high returns,” said Vijay Kalra, president of the Federation of Arhtiya Association, Punjab.
Setia’s isn’t an isolated case, even though it might appear unusual in the context of the considerable sway that arhtiyas supposedly wield in Punjab’s grain trade. They are the middlemen through whom the Food Corporation of India and other government agencies undertake procurement of wheat and paddy that farmers bring to the state’s mandis. The arhtiyas are the ones who get the grain that is unloaded into their mandi platforms cleaned and, then, organise its auction. They also arrange for bagging of the grains prior to their being loaded into the trucks of the successful bidders — the buyers are predominantly state agencies. For all these services rendered, they get a commission fee, amounting to 2.5 per cent of the purchase price.
See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/grain-trade-punjabs-agricultural-crisis-now-consumes-arhtiyas/