Less than a week after the Municipal Corporation auctioned the Ghumar Mandi parking space and turned it into a paid one, the shopkeepers of the market were out on roads on Monday morning.
Downing shutters of shops and wearing black ribbons, the shopkeepers protested along with area councillors — the Congress’s Gurpreet Gogi and Narinder Kala, who is brother of Congress MLA Bharat Bhushan Ashu.
Not only the Congress, but the Aam Aadmi Party also took advantage of the situation and H S Phoolka reached the spot to support the shopkeepers demanding suspension of paid parking.
Meanwhile, Local Bodies Minister Anil Joshi reached the city to conduct surprise inspection at the MC headquarters, Zone A office, at Mata Rani Chowk.
The shopkeepers rushed to meet Joshi and aired their grievances following which Joshi immediately asked MC Commissioner Pradeep Aggarwal to suspend paid parking at Ghumar Mandi for the time being.
Talking to Newsline, Rajinder Bawa, president of Ghumar Mandi Central Shopkeepers’ Association, said, “We have no objection if a separate, proper parking lot is made at the market and we are asked to pay Rs 10 for parking a car. But it is only roads where vehicles are parked and for that MC cannot take any amount. It is completely unjustified.”
The shopkeepers added that a “if a student comes to buy a pencil worth Re 1 then first he has to shell out Rs 5 for parking his two-wheeler which is total injustice”.
The shopkeepers alleged that the “contractor’s employees misbehaved with youngsters and women”. “They are very rude, with no sense to talk. They also overcharge,” said shopkeeper Harpreet Singh.
In their memorandum submitted to Joshi, the shopkeepers said, “Parking contractor is least interested in proper parking of vehicles; his only motive is to mint money. They also charge from vehicles parked outside yellow lines which is against MC rules. They do not spare a vehicle which comes to deliver goods to a shopkeeper even if it stands for less than a minute. On June 12, parking contractor came with bouncers to show his strength and terrorise us.”
They said that “since property tax is also being paid, MC cannot ask them to pay for parking vehicles in front of their own shops or homes”.
MC Commissioner Aggarwal told Newsline, “Following complaints from shopkeepers, paid parking at Ghumar Mandi is temporarily suspended on orders of minister Joshi. Joint commissioner P S Ghuman has been ordered to investigate matter and then a final decision will be taken.”
Malhar Road shopkeepers also blocked the road in the evening, demanding suspension of paid parking. On June 6, the MC had auctioned four new parking lots for paid parking, including Sarabha Nagar main market and Sarabha Nagar I-block. The contractor was found charging Rs 20 for four-wheelers, double the rate at Malhar road which Newsline had reported.
Surprise raid at MC headquarters
On a personal visit to the city, Local Bodies Minister Anil Joshi conducted a surprise raid at the MC headquarters on Monday. He inspected Suvidha Centre and files pertaining to birth and death certificates. He asked MC officials to be available for general public from 9 am to 1 pm. “Meetings should be held only after 1 pm,” he said. Joshi ordered the MC commissioner to immediately get installed information boards. “I found all boards missing and no numbers of engineers and staff members are displayed,” he said. He also questioned additional commissioner Sumit Jarangal on why payments were made to the contractor of Pakhowal road when samples had failed.