New Delhi, Jan 23 : Many shops in various markets here were shut on Tuesday as part of a "Vyapar Bandh" or a shutdown called to protest the ongoing sealing drive in the city, while political parties blamed each other for making the traders "suffer".
Most shops in big markets like Defence Colony, Khan Market, Connaught Place, Sadar Bazaar, South Extension Parts 1 and 2, and Chandni Chowk remained closed for the whole day as traders there protested the sealing of business establishments using residential properties for commercial purposes without paying conversion charges.
The drive is being carried out by a Monitoring Committee set up by the Supreme Court and is being implemented by the three Bharatiya Janata Party-led Municipal Corporations of Delhi (MCDs).
The 'bandh' or shutdown was called by industry body Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT).
"We kept restaurants and essential services like medical stores out of the protest ambit so the public doesn't face problems.
Remaining businesses' owners joined us in the protest," CAIT Secretary General Parveen Khandelwal told IANS.
Khandelwal said the protest had the support of all major political parties like the Congress, the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party.
AAP leader Gopal Rai told the media: "If the BJP and MCDs try to find a way out, it can be done but they want to destroy the businesses."
Party's Chief Spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj proposed the removal of conversion charges as a solution to the sealing drive.
Delhi BJP President Manoj Tiwari condemned the AAP for trying to "mislead" the traders on the matter.
"The sorry situation in which the traders today find themselves is the result of the delay in the notification of commercial roads by successive Congress and AAP governments," he said.
Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken said: "In the fight between the BJP and the AAP, the traders of Delhi are suffering.
Not only the traders, but also their workers and the labourers are on the verge of poverty."
South Extension's market association head Vijay Kumar said the South Delhi MC was "justified" in taking conversion charges but was sealing even businesses that had made the payment.
"In 1998, South Extension Part 1 was declared local shopping centre by the DDA (Delhi Development Authority).
In 2010, they asked us for conversion charges, which we paid. Later, these charges were increased according to the land area and we paid that as well," Kumar told IANS.
"The SDMC is justified in demanding conversion charges but sealing business establishments that have paid the fees is not acceptable.
Seventy five per cent businessmen in our market have paid the charges yet officials are sealing their shops."
According to the CAIT, more than seven lakh traders from more than 2,000 trade associations joined the Delhi 'trade bandh', saying the drive is in violation of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act.
The CAIT Secretary General said that strike is expected to cause a loss of business to the tune of Rs 1,500 crore.
"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 of December 31, 2017, notifying 351 roads as commercial or mix land use and increase in FAR (floor area ratio) to protect additional construction," he added.
He said that the protesting traders are demanding immediate intervention of the government since the sealing was being conducted in a "dictatorial" manner under the guise of the Supreme Court order.
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.
Traders of Lajpat Nagar, Greater Kailash, Green Park, Kirti Nagar, Chawri Bazar, Kamla Nagar, Karol Bagh, Kashmiri Gate, Naya Bazar, Paharganj, Rajouri Garden, Kalkaji, Tughlaqabad, Yusuf Sarai, Mandawali and Gandhi Nagar participated in the shutdown.