Delhi: Sealing of major markets continue, shopkeepers might resort to Delhi bandh
Major markets of south Delhi - South Extension Part I and II, Defence Colony, Green Park Main, etc. not just remained shut on Friday protesting against the MCD's ongoing sealing drives, but also threatened to launch a Delhi bandh next week.
Directed by a Supreme Court-mandated monitoring committee, which is headed by ex-bureaucrats Bhure Lal, KJ Rao and Som Jhingan, the three municipalities of Delhi have shut down over 500 shops since last week of December, 2017, so far.
These include all floors above the ground floor, plus those allegedly operating illegally from basements.
The targeted markets include Khan Market, Meherchand Market, Vasant Kunj, Karol Bagh, Rohini, Mayur Vihar, etc.
The row is over shopkeepers in the Capital having to pay Rs 22,274 per square metre as 'conversion charges' by January 15 for carrying out commercial activity in residential areas.
Many of these shops - which came up sans permits - are traffic, law and order, fire, earthquake and environmental hazards, MCD officials and experts had told the apex court recently.
Shopkeepers in major markets, however, contended on Friday that the municipalities are "wrongfully extracting" money from them.
Kanishka Vaderaa, Chairperson, South Ex. Part II traders association, said, "We were declared 'Local Shopping Centres' in 1998, and defined so in the Master Plan of Delhi (MPD) 2001. We were permitted commercial activity on all floors without any demand for conversion charges then."
"How is it that they wake up after 20 years and decide that they suddenly want to slap fresh conversion charges now?" he asked.
His colleague Sudhir Ahuja pointed out the "differential treatment being made by the authorities between actual markets and those converted from houses and kothis into shops more recently."
He explained, "The latter category, which includes many shops and restaurants that came up in the last decade along the Ring Road, were declared legal with one-time payment of Rs 6,146 per sq.m. in 2007. So, you are rewarding law breakers and punishing those who abide by rules."
RC Gambhir, president, Green Park Market Association said, "How inspite of Rs 3 lakh charged from them as 'parking development fee' for each floor in 2010, not a single parking slot has been developed by the SDMC in all these years."
"They took money from us, and then floated tenders for each inch of surface parking area here, earning even more money. Now, the National Green Tribunal says there will be no surface parking in markets at all," he added.
His colleague Rajiv Gupta, said, "The SDMC, for over 20 years, has not bothered to repair the roads here, or bolster the 40-year-old choked sewage network, or build ducts for hanging electricity lines, or remove encroachments from footpaths. It seems traders have only become money minting machines for them."
The north and south MCDs, both, went ahead with their scheduled sealing drives on Friday in Saket, Rajouri Garden, Sundar Nagar, Pashchim Vihar, etc.