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Traders in Delhi shut shops for 2nd consecutive day against sealing drive

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Hundreds of thousands of shops and business establishments in major markets in Delhi remained closed on Saturday, the second consecutive day against the local bodies' ongoing sealing drive.

The sealing drive began in December following an order from the country's Supreme Court of India-appointed monitoring committee to seal those shops whose owners had not paid conversion charges (to convert from residential premises to commercial property) or have flouted local bye-laws while constructing the premises and constructed more than the permissible limits.

Amid the ongoing stir, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has reportedly approved proposals to provide a uniform floor-area-ratio (FAR) for shop-cum-residential complexes, reduce penalties and regularise warehouses in agriculture lands by amending the Delhi Master Plan 2021. This move, when officially implemented, would provide much needed relief to the agitated traders in the capital city who have been hit hard by the ongoing sealing drive.

The stir began Friday, went on Saturday and will culminate on Sunday with a large protest organised at the Rajghat, the memorial of father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi, announced vice-president of the Sadar Bazar Traders Association in old Delhi area.

Organising a protest on Saturday in his area which was attended by local traders, Satpal Singh Magwa, who runs an artificial jewellery shop, said that the ongoing sealing drive of the local governments in Delhi was illegal as it didn't give enough time to the traders to respond.

"These buildings in old Delhi date back to more than a century. And this area (Sadar Bazar) has all along been a commercial area. But the present circumstances expect us to pay up in order to convert our premises into commercial property. This is not done. We demand the government immediately stop the sealing drive and let us earn our livelihood peacefully."

"The sealing was done without serving us proper legal notices. We were not given enough time to respond to what the government expects us to do. This sealing drive is illegal," added Magwa.

Ramkumar Singh Pahwa, another trader in Sadar Bazar area, said "a group of local policemen and officials from local municipality suddenly came on Wednesday and sealed my shop without any prior notice. My shop has been sealed for the past three days. They did not give me enough time even to take my personal belongings and shut the shop properly," he added with a huff.

Secretary General of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) Praveen Khandelwal said the ongoing sealing drive was very harmful to the economy. "Almost 25,000 markets will be closed. Protest marches against sealing would be taken out by businessmen in around 500 markets. The ongoing sealing is very harmful to our economy."

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