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Protest shuts Metro Plaza

Metro Plaza, the shopping complex on Ho Chi Minh Sarani in south Calcutta, stayed shut on Friday after shopowners protested against common spaces inside the complex allegedly being sold off in violation of safety guidelines.

Around 250 protesters alleged a nexus between the members of the previous shopowners’ association and the developers of the shopping complex.

“On the ground floor, a shop has come up in front of the electrical switchboard,” said a protester. “The area used to be kept free of all encroachment to keep a blaze from spreading. Now, the cloth stored in the shop will help a fire to spread if one breaks out.”

Arun Sahani, the president of the new association, said the encroachments began a few years after the market opened in 2000. “Those who earlier ran the association conspired with the developer and encouraged the encroachments. This has made it difficult for us to run our businesses,”Sahani said.

In 2011, Calcutta High Court had instructed the fire department to demolish the illegal stalls that had mushroomed in the common spaces. The shopowners alleged nothing had been done.

“The fire department inspected the complex even on Thursday. But we fear they will again sit on the order, as they are acting under the influence of the developer,” alleged a shopowner.

Fire officers said demolishing structures was not their department’s job.

The developer of Metro Plaza, Jugal Kishore Khedawat, denied all allegations. “It’s a fight between two factions of the association and my name is being unnecessarily dragged into it,” he said.

Shahensha Khan, the former general secretary of the association, also denied charges of having colluded with the developer.