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Traders refuse to lend shops

Pandra businessmen, who are yet to get back some of the shops-cum-godowns that were used as strongrooms during last year’s countermanded Ranchi mayoral polls and have remained under lock and key ever since, are in no mood to spare their trading units for the Lok Sabha elections.

The Pandra Agricultural Market traders, who have launched a campaign under the Federation of Jharkhand Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FJCCI), knocked on the doors of Raj Bhavan on Thursday morning. Though Raj Bhavan officials expressed their inability to do anything as only the Election Commission alone could take a decision, the businessmen sought governor Syed Ahmed’s intervention into ensuring that their shops are not taken away to store EVMs and count votes for the approaching polls.

“The shopkeepers complained that business activity gets severely affected because of the counting process at Pandra. They said that more than 10 shops, taken to keep EVMs during the mayoral election last April, are still under lock and key as the polls was countermanded. A decision on what needs to be done with the EVMs kept inside the shops is yet to be taken,” a Raj Bhavan official said.

The traders also reasoned that when places like the mega sports complex and State Institute of Rural Development are available, it makes no sense to use Pandra market as a counting centre at the cost of suspending business activities for a long time.

FJCCI president Vikash Singh confirmed visiting the Raj Bhavan. He said that they would also take up the issue with all concerned and try their best to prevent the poll authorities from taking over the Pandra market.

“The district administration had taken over as many as 22 shops of Pandra Agricultural Market for the April 8 Ranchi Municipal Corporation elections that were later countermanded. Ten, used for counting votes for 55 ward councillors, were duly returned to traders around 10 days after counting. But when the Rama Khalkho cash controversy erupted, the poll panel countermanded the elections, leaving 12 other shops in the lurch. This has compelled the business community to ensure that the market is not used for election purpose this time,” he said.

Deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey shared the concerns of the traders, but expressed helplessness to do anything about it.

“I have no role to play here. The state election commission has convened a meeting on March 11 to discuss the fate of the sealed shops. This issue is expected to be discussed as well,” he added.