After the municipal corporation (MC) with the help of police force removed encroachments from Karimpura Bazaar on Monday at 9am, the shopkeepers blocked traffic at Jagraon Bridge for more than six hours. Long traffic jams on all connecting roads to Jagraon Bridge led to inconvenience to the commuters.
Traffic chaos was witnessed on the Elevated Road, Ferozepur Road and the road leading to Gill Road. Long traffic jams were witnessed in the Old City area, including Railway Station Road, Chaura Bazar and the Field Ganj area.
Shopkeepers opposed the drive and raised slogans against the municipal corporation for demolishing shutters and showcases of 12 shops, which were not violators.
With eight JCB machines, around 300 police cops and MC employees, along with senior MC officials, went to Karimpura Bazaar for the encroachment drive. During the drive, around 50 encroachments were removed.
Area councillor Rakesh Prashar said, "They have broken the shutters and showcases of 12 shops that are not even violators. This move of the MC is not right, as mayor has assured us a day before that no demolition drive will take place in our area. But, the civic body officials reached our area in the morning and conducted drive."
A shopkeeper, Jaspal Singh, said, "I have not violated any law than even the MC has broken my shop's shutter. I was shocked to see a broken shutter when I reached the shop at 9.15am. This is not right and I think action should be taken against the officer, as I am not at fault."
A commuter, Aniket Khurana, said, "It took me two hours to cross the Jagraon Bridge. I had to drop my mother at bus stand. Usually it takes two hours to reach Chandigarh from Ludhiana, but she reached Chandigarh in six hours. Why the shopkeepers have blocked Jagraon Bridge, if they have any problem they should protest outside MC office."
To gain political mileage, several political leaders like Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, district BJP president Praveen Bansal, and Congress MLA Surinder Dabur reached the Jagraon Bridge to pacify shopkeepers.
MC Zone-A commissioner Davinder Singh said, "Notices were issued to the defaulters to remove encroachments last month, but they failed to do so, following which we carried out the demolition drive. We are just obeying the orders of Punjab and Haryana high court."
When asked that some shopkeepers were claiming that they were not violators, and even then shutters of their shops were demolished, Singh replied that we would conduct an inquiry if required in this case.
He said, "MC has identified 6,355 encroachments as submitted in the civil writ petition 4886 of 2003, adding that it had so far removed 2,429 encroachments."
Mridula Jain, managing director of Shingora Textiles Limited, said, "I was stuck in the traffic for one-and-a-half hours and when I pleaded for help to both police as well as agitators, they helped us to reverse our cars one by one. But, the act of dharna it was shameful, as public was stuck in jam for hours and police was watching the plight of suffering public. The traffic police should have at least diverted the moving traffic going towards the bridge."
Meanwhile, mayor Harcharan Singh Gohalwaria has called an emergency house meeting at Zone A office on Tuesday.