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Traders plan action if verdict is against them

Traders are alleging that they are paying for the government's mismanagement which has made many bankrupt.

india Updated: Nov 06, 2006 13:07 IST

A non-cooperation movement, a nationwide strike, no taxes... all this and more were being considered Monday as traders in the capital nervously awaited a Supreme Court verdict on the sealing of unauthorised shops that could spell do or die for their livelihoods.

"There is a lot of apprehension in the community as the judgment will have a bearing on their livelihoods," said Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT).

"We have belief in the judiciary and hope that it will take into consideration our future while deciding on the matter," said Khandelwal, adding that hundreds of thousands of traders were waiting for the verdict.

"If the government does not present our case before the court and the sealing drive is not stopped, we will start a non-cooperation movement against the government and we will stop paying taxes to express our anger."

"We will decide our future course of action after the verdict and the Group of Ministers (GoM) meeting this evening," Khandelwal said.

The GoM, headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, meets to take stock of the court verdict and subsequent developments.

The petitions filed by the urban development ministry and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) have detailed the difficulties faced by the authorities in carrying out the court-mandated sealing drive in the city.

The ministry's application urges the apex court to give relief to the 44,000 traders who had submitted affidavits to move out of residential areas by Oct 31, while the MCD petition appeals for giving them time till Jan 31, 2007.

A second petition by the MCD apprises the court of the law and order situation in the city due to the traders' protest and the difficulties faced by them. The court had listed all petitions on the sealing drive for hearing Monday.

According to Khandelwal, "We have developed the 84 percent commercial space that is available in Delhi and now our businesses are being affected and closed because of the sealing drive."

The trader leader alleged that traders were paying for the government's mismanagement. "The government was supposed to provide commercial space but they have only developed 16 per cent of the area and the remaining was brought up by the traders."

He said that in the past few months their business had been targeted by the MCD, resulting in many traders becoming bankrupt.

"We are confident that the Supreme Court will give a judgement in favour of the traders. If the decision goes against the traders community, we will launch a nationwide strike and call for Bharat Bandh," said Khandelwal.

"We have been in touch with the traders of several cities and they have come forward in our support," he said, adding that around 500 trading bodies had come forward in Delhi alone.

"We want the government to rehabilitate and compensate the traders who have suffered losses and whose businesses had been closed down. The government should also provide commercial space to traders so that other traders could shift there," Khandelwal said.

The issue has snowballed into a major confrontation with the traders last week going on a three-day strike during which main markets were closed as were many schools.

Chaos had ruled in the city Wednesday, the last day of the strike, when thousands of protesters turned violent, smashing vehicles and blocking roads and railway tracks.

On Thursday, citing law and order problems, the GoM decided not to carry out any sealing operations till Monday, even as the Supreme Court refused to suspend the drive.