Traders cry foul over fresh sealing drive in Delhi’s Defence Colony
A month later on Tuesday, officials of South Delhi Municipal Corporation sealed the basements of 35 establishments in Defence Colony, even as shopkeepers claimed they had the revised building plans with them.delhi Updated: Jan 16, 2018 23:35 IST
The sealing of basements of 35 establishments in Defence Colony market on Tuesday left shopkeepers confused and worried.
Last month, the sealing drive had started with south civic body officials, aided by Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee, closing floors built above the ground floor for non-payment of ‘use conversion’ charges.
A month later on Tuesday, officials of South Delhi Municipal Corporation sealed the basements of 35 establishments in Defence Colony, even as shopkeepers claimed they had the revised building plans with them.
“We showed the municipal officials our sale deed, payment slip for additional floor area ratio, one-time parking charge and use conversion charge (paid at old rates of Rs 6,136 per square metre). But the officials refused to hear us. Why this repeated sealing action? Why did they not seal the basement on the first day of the drive if it was illegal,” said Satish Gupta, owner of Kids Collection.
The shop owners said that they are running commercial activities in the basement of their shops since late 1970s and the municipal corporation had approved their building plan in 2000 after regularising the constructions done till 1998.
“We had shown the building plan to the SDMC officials as well as the monitoring committee members during a meeting on Tuesday. But the members kept the plan with themselves without promising anything. In the approved building plan, our basements are clearly shown as commercial establishments,” said Jagdish Gupta, general secretary of Defence Colony Market Association and owner of a Puma Shoe store (that operated from the basement).
The affected shopkeepers have now offered to pay the balance ‘use conversion charges’ at the revised rate (Rs 22,274 per square metre).
A member of the Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee said that basements of an establishment can only be used for residential purposes. “ But traders are using it for commercial activities, which is illegal and can’t be allowed even if they pay the ‘use conversion charge’,” he said.
Traders of Defence Colony also alleged that repeated sealing action has left thousands jobless and at least on humanitarian grounds, the SC-appointed monitoring committee should reconsider their decision. “The municipality officials who approved the building plan and allowed commercial activities in basements for the last five decades are equally at fault,” said Rajinder Malik, president of Defence Colony market association and owner of Malik grocery store.
Acoording to Abhishek Dutt, councillor from Andrews Ganj, the monitoring committee should come out with detailed guidelines for the convenience of shopkeepers. “The shopkeepers are not given any intimation by the municipal corporation about the deadline for submitting the ‘use conversion charge’ and also till what time the reduced rates (R 22,270 per square metre) will be applicable, which is unfair,” said Vishal Ohri, shop owner at GK-II M Block Market.
The sealing drive had restarted in Delhi on December 22 last year from Defence Colony market. A couple of weeks ago, the Delhi Development Authority had encouraged shopkeepers to pay conversion charges by reducing the charges from Rs 89,090 per square metre to Rs 22,274 per square metre for 80 local markets falling in A-D categories (as per circle rates notified by the Delhi government).
“But even after reducing the rates, many traders didn’t turn up to pay the pending charges,” said a municipal corporation official.