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Seal sword over Delhi

New Delhi, Nov. 7: The capital’s pre-winter air was heavy with premonition today as the order was given to resume sealing of commercial establishments in residential areas tomorrow.

Angry traders, who had called a strike, turned increasingly violent as hope for relief disappeared, raising fears of a riot-like situation as the first round of sealings restarts in affluent South Delhi localities.

Trade leaders announced a hunger strike from tomorrow after the Supreme Court-appointed committee tasked with monitoring the exercise directed the municipality to resume sealing.

Some 30,000 establishments face the crackdown for illegally occupying residential space.

Earlier in the day, the traders tried less Gandhian means to make their point — attacking buses, stoning police personnel, and breaking public property.

East Delhi was the worst affected with Vikas Marg — the main artery linking the capital to the satellite town of Noida — blocked for most of the day as the traders sporadically clashed with the police.

The traders used narrow lanes branching off Vikas Marg to play a game of urban guerrilla warfare with the police, casting stones, some fairly large, to target the men in khaki before disappearing into one of the houses or shops.

Similar tactics could be in play tomorrow, but there was a warning from the traders about stepping up their protests when the sealing starts.

The police claimed they had law and order under control. “There is no need for people to panic. They should, however, stay away from big markets tomorrow,” said Deependra Pathak, the additional commissioner of police, south.

Twenty-five companies of the CRPF and RAF are helping the police.

Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit issued an appeal to the people. “Please be calm because the situation is serious.” She said the Centre, the Delhi government and the civic body had “done the maximum” possible to provide relief to the traders.

But not all are convinced about this. For instance, under the Delhi Development Act, 1962, the body in charge of most of the land-use in the capital — DDA — was to build commercial localities housing 5 lakh shops by 2002. All they have built are 1 lakh shops.

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