Two days after around 100 shops were gutted at an illegal vegetable market in Preet Colony here on Monday night, shopkeepers started setting up their stalls again on Wednesday. As many as five illegal vegetable markets like this have flourished, at least three on SAD and Congress members’ private plots, in Zirakpur in the last 15 years as Municipal Council (MC) has been turning a blind eye.
The MC has so far failed to set up a proper vegetable market in the town. Confirming that there is no regularised market in the town, Zirakpur MC’s Estate Officer Girish Verma said that in an upcoming meeting of town and vending committee, they will moot a proposal to identify land where the markets could be set up.
On the illegal markets, Verma said that they were being held for long. “We can not close the markets without providing a proper land to the shopkeepers.” The illegal markets, where hundreds of people visit everyday, are vulnerable to mishaps like Monday’s as they don’t have any fire safety norm or parking space.
A fire brigade official on Monday had said that none of the markets have a no-objection certificate from the department. One such illegal vegetable market is in A K S Colony on main Zirakpur-Patiala road. It was set up in 2003 on an area of around an acre on the private ancestral land of SAD leader Paramjeet Kaur Sodhi, the Senior Vice-President of Zirakpur MC.
On Wednesday, when Chandigarh Newsline visited the market, a shopkeeper, who wished not to be named, said that there were 28 shops and that they pay rents on a daily basis. “Most of the shops have an area of 10-by-10 feet and a shopkeeper pays Rs 300 per day rent to the owners. The fare is same in all other four markets,” the shopkeeper said, adding the MC officials never visited the market.
The four other markets are in Bishanpura, set up in 2014, Dhakoli, set up in 2015, Peermuchalla, set up in 2015, and Preet Colony, set up in 2006. All the markets are set up on an area between 0.5 acre and one acre and have around 30 shops each. The illegal vegetable market in Bishanpura is also set up on the land owned by Sodhi’s family. A high-tension wire passes through the market, posing a threat to the shopkeepers and customers.
Confirming that the market is set up on their land, Sodhi said that they had followed all the norms. “We also have proper space for parking.” Ajay Sahu, a vegetable vendor in Bishanpura market told Chandigarh Newsline that he pays Rs 300 per day to the land owners. “There is no fire safety norm and the shopkeepers are responsible for any loss,” Sahu said.
The vegetable market in Dhakoli is built on an area of three bighas (around one acre), owned by a Congress party worker, Paramjeet Singh. Singh told Chandigarh Newsline that he had taken a licence from the market committee. “The market has proper space for parking. We have not violated any norm,” he said.
Zirakpur MC’s Estate Officer Girish Verma, however, had said that there is no regularised market in the town.
The Preet Colony market was set up in an area of around one acre, owned by Randhir Singh, Jasmer Singh and Kirpal Singh. “It was our business. We have to work, so we started setting up our shops again,” said Ajay Kumar, a shopkeeper at Preet Colony market.