A day after the administration conducted an aggressive façade clean-up drive in a part of Sector 17, the entire market, barring a couple of hole-in-the-wall eateries, remained closed in protest on Tuesday. By the evening, though, a delegation of trader leaders met the UT administrator, Kaptan Singh Solanki, and decided not to continue the strike on an assurance that further drives, if any, would be conducted after detailed consultations and liberal time to remove violations.
The idea of setting a role model or example of a government building was also revived, said local BJP chief Sanjay Tandon, who accompanied the leaders. Local MP Kirron Kher was not in town, though she had already condemned the manner of Monday’s drive.
“The administrator assured us that there would be detailed consultations between the officials and the traders if any violations have to be removed; and also that the UT would set an example and show what is to be done as part of restoring buildings to their original architectural glory,” said Tandon. The delegation comprised members of the Chandigarh Beopar Mandal (CBM) and the Chandigarh Business Council (CBC), both of which claim to be umbrella organisations of city’s traders.
“We decided to call off the strike as the assurances have come from the highest level. The Monday’s drive was shocking, especially since we had held consultations with the administration since April, and it was clear that the technicalities were not entirely understood yet,” said Kamaljit Singh Panchhi, president of a traders’ association in Sector 17.
Earlier in the day, there was a dharna organised by the traders where some union leaders from other areas such as the Sector-26 sabzi mandi also joined in. At the protest, besides Panchhi and other leaders from Sector 17, local Congress unit president Pardeep Chhabra criticised the administration.
There was a verbal confrontation, too, between the police and traders as the latter held a rally across the sector over the issue.
Nub and nuances of the matter
Boards and extra lights: Traders want time to get new ones or use the present ones with some relaxations. “An inch here and there should not matter,” said JP Singh Kalra, general secretary of Traders’ Association, Sector 17. As for lights, administration wants none on the façade except agreed-upon uniform lighting from the roof.
Paint: The concrete façade, which covers 90% of Sector 17 buildings, is painted at several places or simply blackened. Traders want the administration to do the job of cleaning and putting a coat of concrete or concrete-coloured paint, for uniformity. The administration is fine with that, and traders have said they would pay their share.
Balconies: There was supposed to be a three-foot-deep balcony in the brick-façade lane. Now the traders are seeking exact specifications. In rest of the sector, balconies are littered with trash, or almirahs in case of government offices.
AC fittings, wires and floor level: For AC compressors, set spots are at ceiling of corridors. But traders want relaxation as ceilings are high in some buildings and putting compressors on the roof would render ACs ineffective. Wirings can be put inside internal ducts or on pillars dividing buildings. Flooring is allowed to be different in front of every shop, but the level has to be the same.