Farmers accused commission agents at Parala Mandi, Bhatta Kufar, Rohru, Solan and Parwanoo of adopting unfair means. They said the agents did not sell the fruit through an open auction as the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) did not have an electronic screen to display fruit rates.
In the absence of any check, the agents cheated them, they resented.“The HP State Agricultural Marketing Board (HPSAMB), which controls the APMCs, has given a free hand to arhtiyas in market yards,” said Prem Chauhan, a farmer from Jhaltahr, Kotkhai.“The farmers are being cheated by the commission agents right under the nose of the APMC as they do not auction fruit openly,” he charged.The current fruit rates are not displayed on the screen. The farmers cannot walk on the yard as the auctioned fruit are piled up on the yard,” the farmers resented.The situation at Parala Mandi is even worse. There is no open auction as the APMC has not bothered to depute not even an inspector for the purpose. “The farmers who bring fruit for sale to the commission agents fix the price for the fruit and there is no auction which is mandatory as per the APMC Act,” rued Pratap Chauhan , a farmer from Chopal.The agents and ‘ladanis’ (buyers) execute shady deals as the farmers cannot know which shop is auctioning fruit at which rate at Bhatta Kufar and Rohru. “At Solan, agents operate under tents and ditto is the situation at Parwanoo,” the farmers resented, urging the Chief Minister to take remedial measures to save farmers from cheating.“The agents have deliberately created artificial blocks on the action yard by piling up cartons so that the farmers have no knowledge about the fruit sold by various agents,” said Gobind Singh, a farmer from Chopal.The farmers said the state government had appointed chairman of the HPSAMB and vice-chairperson of the APMCs, but it had failed to protect the farmers from exploitation.The secretary of the APMC, Shimla, has been transferred to Dharamsala and the official holding the charge, Pawan Thakur, is on leave. The managing director of the HPSMB did not respond to the calls.HPMC vice-chairman Prakash Thakur said the problem was that the APMCs were controlled by the Agriculture Department, and not by the Horticultural Department. But the government has issued direction to the APMC to ensure that the auction should be conducted, he added.Additional Principal Secretary, Agriculture, Upma Chaudhary could not be contacted.