Traders seem to have won round one. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is unlikely to resume its sealing drive on November 1, as planned.
While traders downed shutters in the Capital on Monday in protest against the resumption of sealing operations, the Supreme Court-appointed Monitoring Committee filed a report with the court, recommending that sealing operations be not resumed on Wednesday since it was the last day of the bandh and there could be a breakdown of law and order. The committee has sought 15 days to decide on the date of resumption of sealing drive.
The panel also asked the apex court to review its decision on 48,000 traders who had filed affidavits, requesting reprieve till January 31, 2007. The court, till now, had refused to give relief to them.
Asked what effect the panel's report could have on the three-day bandh, most traders said they were not aware of the new development. Said Ramesh Khanna, vice-president, Confederation of All India Traders: "We still have no information about the Monitoring Committee's report. We will take a decision on the bandh after studying the report."
The Monitoring Committee's unexpected recommendation follows a meeting it had with Police Commissioner KK Paul and officers of the Intelligence Bureau on October 27.
Paul and intelligence officials had told Chief Secretary R Narayanaswami that according to their information, the protesting traders were planning to include women and children in the agitation, which would make it difficult for police to act.
On the first day of the bandh, the protests were centred on the Vidhan Sabha where the agitating traders congregated. The scene turned ugly as traders tried to break the security cordon. Police fired teargas shells to disperse the crowd and detained some of the traders' representatives.
All major markets were closed. The traders blocked some roads, including the GT Karnal Road, resulting in traffic snarls. The Metro services between Kashmere Gate and Vishwa Vidyalaya stations were also suspended from 9 am to 3.30 pm.
Things could take a turn for the worse on Tuesday if traders plan to continue with the strike despite the committee's report. There will be rallies, protest marches, hunger strikes and sit-ins at all major markets, which can disrupt traffic.
Some schools like Shri Ram School and Sardar Patel Vidyalaya have decided to remain closed. But DPS, Modern, Springdales (Pusa Road), Sanskriti, St Columba's, Vasant Valley, Mater Dei, St Thomas, Ramjas (Pusa Road) and Amity (Saket) will be open.
Chemists, meanwhile, have called off their strike after they got an assurance from Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit that pharmacy shops would not be sealed.