The traders of Bidhan Market, the largest retail market in Siliguri, observed a strike on Wednesday, demanding land rights.
They also took out a march and demanded that the state government and the agencies concerned immediately take the initiative to provide rights to the land on which their shops are located.
Set up in the sixties, the market has over 5,000 shops and barely a few shop-owners have land rights.
“We have been deprived of land rights for around 60 years now. The traders here have approached several authorities, including the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority (SJDA) which owns the market land. However, nothing has happened. That is why we had to resort to a business strike today,” said Bapi Saha, the general secretary of Siliguri Bidhan Market Byabsayee Samiti.
In recent years, this is the first time that traders in the market have observed a whole-day strike.
Saha said that on June 15, the SJDA authorities had assured them that the issue would be resolved.
“However, no further communication has reached us to date,” he said.
Spread over an area of 9.5 acres, there are around 3,500 shops in the market. Also, another 1,500-odd retailers run temporary stalls here.
“Around 50,000 people are directly or indirectly associated with the market. The daily turnover is around five crores,” said a source.
The strike and the discontentment brewing among the traders can have political ramifications, opined political observers.
This is because the traders, most of their employees, and others associated with the market are residents of Siliguri and its surroundings. These people and their families are disgruntled with SJDA, which is a state-run agency on the land rights issue.
Earlier, it was seen that a section of the traders have sided with the saffron camp.
“If the issue is not resolved, it can leave an impact in the ensuing polls. A couple of days back, Raju Bista, the local MP, visited the market and met them. He echoed their demand and said that it would apprise the Governor on the issue. That the votes of these people and their families are important is evident,” said an observer.
Sources in SJDA said they are in communication with representatives of the market’s trade body.
“A meeting would be held soon to discuss the issue,” said a source.