| Traders of Saheed Nagar Haat demonstrate in front of Bhavani Mall at Saheed Nagar in Bhubaneswar. Picture by Ashwinee Pati |
Bhubaneswar, Oct. 19: Members of Saheed Nagar Market Merchants’ Association today staged a protest in front of the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation-Bhawani Mall and forced the authorities to stop the inauguration of a digital movie theatre and a retail outlet chain in the building.
The traders demanded to be allowed to do business on the ground floor of the mall’s commercial block developed by the civic body through a public-private partnership (PPP) venture.
They cited an Orissa High Court directive of August 17, 2004, to provide space in the mall to the displaced traders. They had been doing business on this land till 1997.
“We went to the corporation office on October 9 and met the mayor, municipal commissioner and deputy commissioner as we found out that the joint venture was going to rob us of our right to do business. The corporation authorities should ensure that we get our share of space in the project,” said Balram Parida, secretary of the merchants’ association.
A trader, who was agitating, said on condition of anonymity: “The real culprit is Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC). The Saheed Nagar Haat was inaugurated on August 31, 1967, to allow farmers on the city outskirts to sell their products. On September 1, 1971, the land was transferred from the general administration department to the BMC (it was then a notified area council). However, on an area of over 3.560 acres, the civic body in 1971-72 constructed only 48 pindis (open platforms) and 27 shops for traders and in 1986 a three-storey market complex was built at the same place with only 36 shops.”
“There was a lot of space lying unutilised so the number of traders increased without infrastructure and they were doing business from makeshift shops. Even in 1996-97, the civic body had failed to do a proper survey to know the exact number of beneficiaries,” said another trader.
Mayor Ananta Narayan Jena, who came to meet the agitating traders this evening, said: “BMC is committed to accommodating all the displaced traders from the Saheed Nagar Market and on the ground floor of the mall. A total of 52,000 square feet is available for 650 vendors.”
He said the corporation would devise a formula to ensure space to the traders after a survey to be completed by November 3. “The proposal will also be sent to the housing and urban development department and Orissa High Court. Once they give their nod, we will accommodate them on the ground floor.”
Jena, however, said that though the project was a PPP venture, the private builder was not showing interest in resolving the issues arising out of the traders’ agitation.