GLORY OF Sector 17, which is Chandigarh’s heart, was restored on Friday when a massive cleansing operation was carried out by the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation and Chandigarh Police that did not allow a single street vendor to carry out vending there. It was on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court that the drive was carried out with special focus being on sectors 17, 19, 22 and sectors 1 to 6.
Considered to be a “pedestrians’ paradise” once, the plaza had literally converted into a flea market ever since the corporation announced street vendors’ survey in 2016. Encroaching upon the open spaces at the plaza, vendors selling belts, shoes, wallets, eatables were all over the place. There were 600 street vendors operating here.
At 6 on Friday morning, huge police force and corporation along with administration officials fortified the plaza, much before the vendors could even reach the spot to carry out their vending. Police vehicles, corporation’s trucks, fire brigades, ambulances were stationed around the plaza. Seven drones carried out aerial surveillance to keep a check on any kind of movement.
With no vendors being allowed to even hover around the area, the corporation began with its beautification drive simultaneously.
Washing of the entire plaza was carried out by the officials and 1,000 plants and flower pots were placed to beautify the area.
To keep 24X7 surveillance and a check on any kind of movement, as many as 24 CCTV cameras and three PTZ cameras were installed covering the entire plaza. They were made wifi-enabled and connected to Commissioner K K Yadav’s mobile phone.
Speaking to Chandigarh Newsline, Commissioner Yadav said, “Today 987 vendors have taken possession of their allotted and designated sites throughout the city. There are around 48 authorised sites where 4,300 vendors have to sit. Not a single street vendor was even allowed to enter the no vending zones of Sector 17 and sectors 1 to 6.”
Forces will be present from 6 am to 10 pm every day.
He added, “As of now, we have our detailed plan ready for the next 15 days which is till December 19 and according to the situation, we will see if the same arrangement has to be extended.”
Traders of Sector 17 who had moved the High Court against the street vendors were an elated lot on Thursday.
Kamaljit Singh Pannchi, a trader of Sector 17, said, “Today we can say that Sector 17’s original character is regained. Due to the chaos created by these street vendors, visitors refrained from coming to the plaza.”
He added, “I remember plaza was the most sought-after place in Chandigarh with people coming and enjoying a stroll, eating out and especially listening to that soft music.”
Sanjiv Chadha, general secretary of the Chandigarh Beopar Mandal, said that the shopkeepers of Sector 17 will continue to support the administration. “We are really thankful that vendors have been driven away and plaza’s original sheen has returned. Especially at this winter time, this is the best place where people can hang around and bask in the sun,” he said.
There were plans to protest outside the Municipal Commissioner’s office in Sector 17 but due to the presence of huge police force, the protest could not be carried out.
Sectors 1 to 6 too were made completely vendor-free. Belongings of the vendors — tables and other material that was already kept at the places — were seized by the corporation early morning before the vendors could come.
For the last many days after the High Court orders where a deadline of December 5 had been given, the enforcement wing of the corporation had been making announcements using public address system. Vendors were asked to go but they were not relocating to their designated sites. As a result, the drive was carried out on Friday.
Parking lots were free at most of the places and the entire corporation force was busy in the vendor-free drive. There were around 1,000 policemen and 1,200 employees of the corporation.
Cleansing in sectors 19 and 22 as well
A massive “vendor-cleansing” operation was carried out in Sector 22 as well where a 40-year-old chik market was removed as it was purely an encroachment. Commissioner Yadav along with enforcement staff got this encroachment removed.
In Sector 22, only 97 authorised vendors were allowed to carry out vending.
Similarly in Sector 19 as well, corporation officials and police force made sure that no unauthorised vendor is allowed. As many as 32 of authorised vendors are allowed here.
Vendors make a beeline for Sec 15
By evening, as many as 200 vendors from all other places had taken possession of their allotted sites.
There are around 936 sites designated in Sector 15 for the street vendors to carry out vending. Of this, around 850 have deposited the vending fee. By evening around 200 had taken possession of their required sites.
However, residents are not at all happy with the corporation’s move of bringing in street vendors in their sector.
Surinder Sharma, president of the Residents Welfare Association here, said that “Sector 15’s original character is lost now”.
“There were so many other sites as well. This will become a crime-breeding place. There is a school here and so many street vendors have been placed,” Sharma said.
Stakeholders of Sector 15 had opposed the corporation’s move of shifting vendors to Sector 15. They had put forth their views in the Town Vending Committee as well but to no avail.
Overall situation peaceful: Police
A release by the Chandigarh Police stated that “keeping in view the intelligence input, it had come to notice that while shifting process the vendors may oppose and create law & order problem, adequate law & order arrangements were made at various locations in the city (sic)”.
The main arrangements were made at Sector 17 plaza, Sector 15 market, Sector 19, Sector 22, and sectors 1 to 6 in Chandigarh.
“In this regard GOs-03, SHOs/Inspectors-13 and NGOs/ORs-600 have been deployed in two shifts. In addition water cannon, vajra, mounted police, tear gas was also deployed. Special team of traffic staff also deployed at both places for proper parking of vehicles. Overall situation remained peaceful,” it was stated.
UT Deputy Commissioner Mandeep Singh Brar, UT Senior Superintendent of Police Nilambari Jagadale along with officers from Municipal Corporation visited Sector 17 plaza and Sector 15 to oversee arrangements.