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Asok hope for retailers

Siliguri, Aug. 3: The Bengal government will bring a regulation soon to ensure that opening of shopping malls does not affect the retailers’ business in the state, urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya has said.

“We are aware of the apprehension expressed by millions of retailers across the state, given the establishment of shopping malls in cities and towns. The state government has decided to come with a regulation to keep these malls under control and make sure that their business does not affect the retailers,” Bhattacharya said at an interactive session organised by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, North Bengal (Focin) here yesterday.

He, however, did not clarify the clauses to be mentioned in the proposed regulation.

The minister’s statement came after Biswajit Das, the Focin general secretary, voiced the retailers’ concern. “Our members doing retail business are apprehensive of loosing their customers because of the malls and chain stores,” he said.

Bhattacharya referred to a recent survey by the Prime Minister’s Office to ascertain the business done by the shopping malls. “It shows that the malls can achieve only 60 per cent of its revenue target. Nevertheless, the state government is concerned about the problem articulated by several associations representing retailers and will take steps,” he said.

The minister asked the retailers to take help from the government agencies like the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority (SJDA) to improve their establishments and also the market infrastructure. “Today’s markets should not be the same as it used to be in earlier years. There has to be basic amenities like parking lot, drinking water and toilets. People also expect the markets to be clean. The businessmen have a role to play here,” said Bhattacharya.

During the session, the traders also raised the long-pending issue of regularising shops set up on the railway and public works department land. “Because of the non-regularisation, we could not improve our shops and could not get financial assistance and other documents,” one of them said.

To this, the minister highlighted the SJDA plan to construct markets on the railway land in Siliguri. “We will also sit with the PWD to discuss the issue,” he said.

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