The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Friday demanded scrapping of the system of auctioning of cattle fairs (Pashu Melas) in the state to private contractors.

The AAP demanded the Department of Panchayats & Rural Development to organise the same in order to prevent the exploitation of dairy farmers by private contractors.

Addressing a Press conference, AAP legislator from Kharar and spokesperson for the state party legislative wing, Kanwar Sandhu said that the government had for many years resorted to open loot of dairy farmers through private contractors. “While farm income is exempt from tax, why are farmers rearing cattle heads being forced to pay heavy sums to the government for every sale and purchase of animals,” Sandhu asked.

The next auction for the coming year is due on July 10 as the previous contract expired on June 30. The state government has had to postpone the auction thrice in the last few days due to varying pressures, including those from contractors and farmers.

This year the reserve price for the auction of all cattle fairs in the state is Rs 72 Crore. Last year the, auction bid had touching a whopping Rs 105 Crore. “This is open loot of the farmers,” Sandhu alleged.

In Punjab, a total of 900 cattle fairs are organized in a year (about 75 every month) spread across 19 districts. In certain places like Dao Majra near Kharar in Mohali District, four cattle fairs are held every month.

Sandhu said that while farmers in Punjab were being forced to pay on an average Rs 2,000 per animal sold or purchased, in Haryana, a farmer pays only Rs 60 per animal. In Haryana, the cattle fairs are organised by its own department.

He said that in Punjab too, the same practice was adopted when the Punjab Cattle Fair (Regulation) Act, 1967 was passed. However, the practice was changed to auctioning of cattle fairs a few years ago, much to the disadvantage of the small farmers and cattle breeders.

Sandhu also demanded that the money collected in the cattle fairs should be spent only on promoting dairy farming and improve veterinary hospitals in the state in a transparent manner.

This has been the long standing demand of the Punjab Progressive Dairy Farmers Association (PDFA). Punjab cattle fairs are much sought after in whole of north India and traders from as far away as UP and Bihar come to buy animals for milk and also for meat purposes.