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Authorities give in to shopkeepers

SHOPKEEPERS AT New Market on Wednesday staged a road blockade against the Bhopal Municipal Corporation?s anti-encroachment drive.

india Updated: Oct 19, 2006 16:56 IST

SHOPKEEPERS AT New Market on Wednesday staged a road blockade against the Bhopal Municipal Corporation’s anti-encroachment drive.

The agitating shopkeepers were demanding that they be allowed to keep goods outside shops as earlier. The authorities gave in to the demand after BJP leaders intervened. The goods outside shops make it difficult for visitors to walk.

Now, it is decided that the shopkeepers can keep their goods within three feet space outside their shops. The decision was taken after the intervention of the BJP leaders, including party district president Surendranath Singh, who talked to the district collector.

The blockade that lasted two hours put passers-by to inconvenience. The traders had earlier urged the BMC and district administration to remove temporary shops from New Market as it was affecting their business. 

After a meeting with the representatives of traders and BJP corporator Anil Agrawal, District Collector S K Mishra told BMC Commissioner Manish Singh to visit New Market and sort out the dispute. Later, Surendranath Singh, Agrawal and the BMC Commissioner visited New Market. It was decided that the traders could keep their goods up to three feet outside the shops till Diwali.

Most of the shopkeepers in New Market pitch tent outside their shops during Diwali. City administration, BMC officials and the police were visibly upset over the raders’ protest, especially after the arrival of MLA Uma Shankar Gupta. “On one hand, the Government wants to clear encroachments to have a disciplined market environment and, on the other, the traders are getting hold of local leaders to influence decision-makers in undoing a good job,” said an official.

The police officials were heard wondering if the encroachment was again allowed, what was the need to use force to remove the same.  

According to an official, the traders in the initial stage had objected to the encroachments by small-time hawkers in the New Market, and subsequently, the anti-encroachment drive was undertaken by the BMC. “But, when it came to them, the big shop-keepers are opposing the same as they want to use the open space in front their shops for display, which is illegal,” the official added.

Though no incidence of lathi-charge took place, the cops had to get tough with demonstrators. “We’re forced to disperse those elements causing inconvenience to commuters, especially women,” a police official said.

During the road-blockade, the entire transport system crossing the Chowraha came to a halt. Even policemen could be seen manhandled by the demonstrators. The demonstrators did not allow anyone to move ahead.

After Gupta arrived the deadlock was broken. However, the hawkers were disturbed as they feel the anti-encroachment drive has spoiled their little income that they could have made during Diwali and Id festivals. “Since my husband is blind, I sell idols and puja items. But, for the last four days there’s no income at all,” said Meena Bai.

Concurred another vendor Basanti Bai, who had to face a lathi while demonstrating against the drive on Wednesday. She said during the drive the BMC team took away her items, which she used to sell in front of the Hanuman temple.

The items have not yet been returned. The poor hawkers also complained that the administration has made no alternative arrangements for them and they would lose the festival business this time. “The big shop-keepers won’t suffer, but who will feed our families,” remarked Mangesh, a hawker.            

Later in the evening, local MP Kailash Joshi also visited New Market and inspected the temporary shops put up during the festive season.