New Delhi, Jan 23 More than seven lakh traders across Delhi on Tuesday observed a shutdown to protest the sealing drive in the city and demanded the government bring out an amnesty ordinance to protect traders. The strike is expected to cause a loss of business worth Rs 1,500 crore.
According to the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), more than seven lakh traders belonging to more than 2,000 trade associations across the city joined in the "Delhi Trade Bandh" against the sealing in the city, which they said is in violation of statutory provisions of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act.
"The traders are demanding the government to protect traders from sealing by bringing an ordinance, an 'Amnesty Scheme' on building and commercial activities on 'as is where is basis' as on December 31, 2017, notifying 351 roads as commercial or mix land use and increase in FAR (floor area ratio) to protect additional construction," said Praveen Khandelwal, Secretary General of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT).
"The protesting traders are demanding immediate intervention of the government in the matter of sealing as the basic fundamentals of MCD (Delhi Municipal Corporation) Act, 1957 have been snatched away from the traders and sealing is being conducted in a dictatorial manner under the guise of Supreme Court order," he added.
Khandelwal added that the local shopping centres were given on commercial rates and now conversion charge was being demanded and sealing conducted without giving any notice, which cannot be justified.
"The entire sealing proceedings are being run in a dictatorial manner keeping aside the MCD Act, 1957," Khandelwal said, adding that the move "deprived the traders from taking advantage of the provisions of the Act."
The traders body said political parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party, supported the "trade bandh".
Citing various sections of the Act, Khandelwal said in case of misuse of building, the Commissioner is required to lodge a complaint against owner/occupier with the Municipal Magistrate.
He added that although mushrooming growth of commercial shops was a matter of common knowledge but no action was taken by the MCD to check commercial activity.
"Over and above the Commissioner never declared any area as prohibited for conducting commercial activity... Therefore ongoing sealing done by MCD is completely illegal as it has violated statutory provisions and even the apex court was never informed about such mandatory provision"," Khandelwal said.
"The fundamental rights of the traders have been snatched and principle of natural justice has been flouted. The traders demands a thorough probe on the issue," he added.
The CAIT pointed out that the day-long "Bandh" will cause a loss of revenue to the tune of about Rs 125 crore to the government and drain out the working hours of about 20 lakh people.
The statement said traders in various market across Delhi are taking out protest marches in their respective markets and would later join "protest dharnas" being held at various places like Chowk Hauz Qazi, Kamla Nagar, South Extension, Rajouri Garden and Krishna Nagar to raise their voice strongly demanding justice.
All major wholesale and retail markets of Delhi including Connaught Place, Chandni Chowk, Sadar Bazar, Chawri Bazar, Kamla Nagar, Karol Bagh, Kashmiri Gate, Khari Baoil, Naya Bazar, Bhagirath Palace, Paharganj, Rajouri Garden, Jail Road, Rohini, Ashok Vihar and Pitampura remained completely closed and wore a deserted look as no commercial activity took place, the statement added.
Other markets which observed the "bandh" include Lajpat Nagar, South Extension, Defence Colony, Greater Kailash,Green Park, Khan Market, Kirti Nagar, Patel Nagar, Naraina, Uttam Nagar, Vikaspuri, Kalkaji, Tughlaqabad, Yusuf Sarai, Vikas Marg, Mandawali, Gandhi Nagar, Shahdara, Bhajanpura, Jagatpuri, Mayur Vihar, Preet Vihar and Shradhanand Marg.
The sealing drive is being carried out against business establishments which are using residential properties for commercial purposes without paying the conversion charges.
It is being carried out by a Monitoring Committee set up by the Supreme Court in 2006. In 2012, the apex court asked the committee to stop the drive. But in December 2017 it ordered its resumption.