Residents of Salt Lake, for whom daily visits to the crowded local community shopping centres have become a nightmare, can look forward to more breathing space from next month.
The authorities have decided to embark on a major post-Independence Day drive against stall-owners encroaching upon market floorspace.
“We will be taking action against all stall-owners who have eaten up passages inside the markets, making it extremely inconvenient for customers to make their way from one shop to another. A deadline of August 15 has been set for them,” said Bidhannagar Municipality chairman Dilip Gupta, adding that some stall-owners were using the passages as godowns.
“The markets were set up not merely to enable the stall-owners to earn a profit but for the benefit of Salt Lake’s residents. If the beneficiaries are facing a serious problem, then we have to take action,” Gupta emphasised.
The stall-owners have been set on a collision course with the municipality for some time now. Civic officials said in most of the 12 existing community shopping centres, some stall-owners have eaten up as much as six feet of the eight-foot passages.
Also, officials alleged, many of the stall-owners were not using the shops for the purpose originally allotted to them. “Many shops meant to sell vegetables, fish or fruit have been converted into stationery, tailoring and grocery stores. So, the municipality has been forced to set up a vegetable market outside the main buildings,” said CPM councillor Chandan Ghosh,
The stall-owners at the GD-Block community shopping centre were recently called by Ghosh and urged to remove the encroachments. “The unauthorised goods will be confiscated if they are not removed by August 15,” he warned, adding that the move would benefit everyone. “If customers do not visit the markets, the stall-owners will be the ultimate losers.”
The Opposition parties, however, allege that internal feuds within the ruling party have sparked the present showdown. “The stall-owners earlier backed by the CPM leaders are now refusing to listen to them,” said Trinamul Congress councillor Sabyasachi Dutta.
Also, in the markets, Bidhannagar Municipality officials plan to turn the toilets into pay-and-use ones by handing them over to private organisations.