Traders – ranging for wholesale dealers to petty traders who hawk on the roads – numbering some 2 crore in Uttar Pradesh are up in arms and arming themselves with thick sticks (lathis) to deal with corrupt government officials.
A traders body – the UP Udyog Vyapar Prainidhi Mandal – has begun to organize the traders into an aggressive group to deal with corrupt babus. It has asked the traders to "keep a thick stick handy and beat those government officials who fleece you and ask for bribes.”
Shyam Bihari Mishra, regional president of the traders body, gave a call to beat up errant officials at a rally of traders here in Lucknow. The rally was convened to protest against what the traders body called “anti-trader policies of the state and the Union government and the corrupt practices of the officials.”
As a first step, the traders also resolved to sit in dharnas on front of the residences of the officials who indulge in corruption.
Mishra told Hindustan Times, the Vyapar mandal has set a three month deadline to the Uttar Pradesh government and the Centre to address the issue. Failing which the traders would begin to act, he said.
Some women petty traders have decided to raise a “staff (danda) brigade to take on the corrupt officials.
Kundika Sharma, the regional president of women's wing, said, "I already have around 20 cases including attempt to murder against me because I have been fighting for the rights of traders. Now, I am raising a danda-brigade whose members would pounce upon unscrupulous officials who are busy fleecing us." Sharma said.
"Just let me know if you are being pressurized by the government officials. My army would do the rest,” she told an assortment of traders gathered at a rally on Thursday.
Mishra, a former BJP MP, sought to use the occasion to showcase his might and also to convey a message to his longtime political rival and traders leader, Banwari Lal Kanchal, recently expelled from the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party.
Several local BJP leaders were present at the rally at which no political statements were made. The focus clearly was on organizing the trading community into fighting for its rights.
The traders body also sent memorandums to the President, the Prime Minster, the UP Governor and the UP Chief Minister. These documents were handed over the additional district magistrate.
Main demands include better power supply, punishment to officials who fleece traders, ending corruption in Commercial Taxes department, abrogation of Section 3/7 of the Essential Commodities Act, as passed by the Union Government.