A bustling shopping market in South Delhi wore a deserted look as the Presidents of five associations operating from Nehru Place jointly asserted their right to a Safer, Cleaner and Regulated work environment. Fed up with the civic apathy to provide a clean, safe and regulated environment to conduct business, nearly 2,000 shops, retailers and offices observed Bandh in the area from 10 am to 12 noon.
The call for a peaceful protest was led by the Nehru Place Improvement and Welfare Association (NIWA) and four associations dealing in Export of Fabrics, Computer Hardware, Peripherals and Media distribution. The core committee NIWA was joined by the All Delhi Computer Traders' Association (ADCTA), Progressive Channels Association of Information Technology (PCAIT), Computer Media Dealers' Association (CMDA) and Export Fabric Suppliers' Association (EFSA). The protest was organized to impress upon the civic authorities (including DDA and Police) to improve the civic facilities due to the genuine occupants of shops and offices in Nehru Place. They also sought urgent solution to the problems in Nehru Place through intervention by the Lt. Governor of Delhi.
"ADCTA feels that the menace of the unregulated encroachment is rampant for all the authorized business owners operating from Nehru Place."
Leading the Joint Committee, NIWA President, Anil K Sehgal, made a fervent plea to the civic and administrative authorities to rise to the occasion and help restore a Safer, Cleaner and Regulated work environment. "We shall continue to ask for the deserved pride of Nehru Place that contributes Rs.1,000 crore annually to the government revenue being a commercial hub," he asserted.
The real reason why the shopkeepers have risen up in arms against the hawkers is that, though the market has been declared as a no-hawking zone, that hasn't stopped roadside vendors from taking over its pavements. It has got worst to such an extent that the market is referred to as one of the most notorious IT markets for pirated goods. The strike aims to underline the shopowners' woes over the unregulated hawking and lack of civic amenities.
Sehgal further adds, "We have been inviting attention of the authorities from time to time, but to no avail. We have recorded correspondence giving videographed details of our woes to Delhi Police, DDA and LG office, but it seems these have fallen on deaf ears."
Mahinder Agarwal, President, ADCTA, while addressing the gathering at the Bandh, said, "The menace of the unregulated encroachment is rampant. As per Supreme Court orders, only 114 hawkers were permitted to ply trade in Nehru Place, but with the failure of surveillance by DDA and Delhi Police, the number of these hawkers has grown multi-fold - up to 450. Today, not only are cartridges and pirated softwares sold by these hawkers, but surprisingly all other fake IT products are available at a cheap price which has been affecting our business largely."
"In the past two years, the concern of PCAIT has transformed from Nehru Place 'Chamkao' to Nehru Place 'Bachao'.
"During the Commonwealth Games 2010, we organized a drive, Nehru Place Chamkao, and demanded the Governor of Delhi and other concerned authorities to spruce up the surroundings and facilities in Nehru Place. But no one paid any heed to our demands. The objective has changed now to Nehru Place Bachao," said R. K. Malhotra, President, PCAIT.
In a joint statement issued by the five associations, they claimed that they respect the right of every citizen to earn a living, but they must do so within the legal framework.
Puneet Singhal, President, CMDA, said, "The key outstanding concerns of all Nehru Place are security, fire hazard, unhygienic surroundings, basic amenities like toilets, overcrowding by unregulated hawkers, parking, etc." He also claims that though the initial response after the Bandh is quite positive, but they would continue with their efforts till the complete mission is achieved.
"Though CMDA hardly has 50 members operating from Nehru Place, they found their prime responsibility to be a part of the Steering Committee."
V. Krishnan, Secretary, PCAIT, added that, though many such steps have been taken earlier by each association at an individual level for the safeguard of Nehru Place, this is for the first time that all the major associations have become serious and united for the upliftment of the area.
Nehru Place, designed by DDA in the 1970s, has, over the years, regressed into one of the filthiest markets in the national Capital, especially during rains. Nearly 12,500 people engaged in 1,283 businesses and offices in Nehru Place have signed a plea to the Lt. Governor of Delhi to save this burgeoning business hub and participated in the peaceful protest. H. R. Sahni, President, EFSA, also agrees to maintain pressure on the authorities in the coming weeks and months.