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Sit-in protest by traders of Gandhi Market

They are not ready to be shifted to temporary shops at an ‘inaccessible’ area

TIRUNELVELI

Traders of Mahatma Gandhi Market in Palayamkottai staged a sit-in dharna on Monday as they were asked to have their temporary shops at an “inaccessible area” to facilitate reconstruction of the market in contrary to the earlier decision of having the temporary shops on adjacent Jawahar Grounds and Police Quarters area.

As the Corporation has planned to reconstruct the 60-year-old dilapidated Mahatma Gandhi Market under the Smart City project on an outlay of ₹ 14.90 crore, owners of the shops in the market covering on 1.22 acres were asked to move to the temporary shops to be created nearby. Once reconstruction is completed with basement and ground floor, the market will fetch a net revenue of ₹ 2.08 crore a year after gross expenditure of ₹ 48.23 lakh towards housekeeping.

The market has 266 shops, and the consignments received by shops at the market can be transported into the market area only manually due to low corridor width. There is no parking facility for commuters and ‘vehicle circulation space’ for traders. As the market’s floor is lower than the road level, water would stagnate inside the market even after a drizzle.

As per the proposal, the new structure will have the basement with a total built-up area of 3,877 square metres, and the ground floor with a total built-up area of 3,553 square metres. While the basement can accommodate 27 four-wheelers and 819 two-wheelers, the ground floor with the commercial area of 1,835 square metres will have 172 shops, which will collectively generate income of ₹ 1.18 crore per year to the Corporation.

A 50-tonne cold storage facility will be created to store perishable items of traders and it will ensure revenue of ₹ 10.80 lakh. A pay-and-use toilet complex will be part of the project to augment the revenue by ₹ 19.35 lakh. While car parking will generate the annual income of ₹ 5.73 lakh, the two-wheeler parking lot will ensure ₹ 77.82 lakh.

When the Corporation planned to shift the shops to the temporary units to be created on Jawahar Grounds and the old police quarters on Tiruchendur Road, the traders agreed to it. It was then decided to set up the shops selling grocery, vegetables meat, etc., on the police quarters spot and establish the shops dealing with all other products at Jawahar Grounds.

However, the shop owners and van drivers, who were given the option of parking their vehicles at Erumaikida Ground behind Palayamkottai All Women Police Station, opposed it saying the ground being used during Dussehra celebrations should not be given for parking vehicles. Backed by a few Hindu outfits, they also protested and the officials held talks with them.

The traders were then given a space behind Bell School to set up temporary units that triggered an instant protest.

“The new place identified for setting up the temporary shops is inaccessible for the public while Jawahar Grounds and Police Quarters area are easily accessible. Hence, we agreed to move out until the market is reconstructed. Now, they show some other inaccessible and insecure place, which is unacceptable. Hence, we are protesting,” said A.J.M. Solomon, president of Gandhi Market Traders’ Association.

When the officials held talks with the traders, it was decided to discuss the issue in the presence of the Collector, the Corporation Commissioner and the Tirunelveli City Police Commissioner.

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