Too many cooks spoil the broth. The saying goes right for Chaura Bazaar, the oldest commercial hub of traders and wholesalers. While as per the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation, a total of 361 encroachments have to be demolished as per the High Court orders, shopkeepers are claiming to have a copy of an agreement dating back to 1972 when the then deputy commissioner Inderjit Singh Bindra allotted them 2.5 feet area in front of their shops to display goods.
Political interference continues in the matter as SAD leader Hira Singh Gabria along with BJP district president Parveen Bansal met MC Commissioner Shruti Singh at Zone A MC headquarters on Monday. Accompanied by shopkeepers from Chaura Bazaar and Karimpura, they gave her a copy of the agreement which was signed between shopkeepers and the district administration.
Talking to Newsline, Gabria said, “Back in 1970s, I clearly remember that then DC Bindra got encroachments cleared and then an agreement was signed allotting shopkeepers 2.5 feet area in front of shops. They had to pay rent for space. Also, it was MC contractor who made symmetry for all shops to look alike. Now MC cannot term that agreement invalid. After 10 years, another officer will come and say previous agreement is invalid. This is not going to be tolerated. We are against encroachments but they cannot touch area under agreement.”
However, Mayor Harcharan Singh Gohalwaria visited the market a few hours later and felt that “there are actually no encroachments”.
“Everyone can make mistakes and so can MC team. I have seen their documents and actually they were allotted 2.5 feet area. After the visit today, I found there are no encroachments and confusion remains just on installation of shutters — whether these should come before or behind 2.5 feet space.”
He added that “plans are on to file a review petition in High Court and take rent along with interest from shopkeepers to avoid demolition”.
Somnath Grover, one of the shopkeepers from a 10-member committee, said, “We are not encroachers. MC sent us notices on May 10 that they would demolish our shops. We are going to stand against injustice.”
However, Congress spokesperson Parminder Mehta, whose wife Sushma Mehta is a councillor of the area, said, “SAD-BJP is playing dirty politics and doing political stunts to garner support in our area. Where was this sympathy when people were rendered homeless in Ghumar Mandi and Daba? We have sent a proposal to allot open ground to rehris and fadis multiple times but no one listened. I appeal to shopkeepers to hire their own lawyer and file a petition in HC as SAD is going to help none.”