I have been the president of the Tiraha Behram Traders’ Association for the last 12 years now. Earlier, around 5-7 years back, the area was maintained really well. Two sweepers used to come daily to clean the place in the morning as well as in the evening. But now, we hardly get to see any cleaning being done.
Our market, near Jama Masjid, has an atmosphere of ‘tehzeeb ’ (culture) but it is being vitiated by innumerable problems. During occasions like Diwali or Eid, we shopkeepers allow various hawkers to put up their shops so that they can earn a bit during festival days. But now the situation is such that hawkers are putting up permanent stalls right in front of our shops. The congestion that you see is the result of encroachment. If the police want, it can be curbed but they get away with illegal settlements, paying J300-500 according to the space they are occupying. So, here both the police and the shopkeepers or hawkers are at fault.
Parking is again a problem due to these random encroachments. Shoppers find it difficult to find a space to park their cars, which leads to loss of business for us.
Now with the arrival of monsoon, we are constantly worried that water might enter our shops and damage our stock. This has happened a few times in my shop, which incurred a huge loss as a result of the damage. Other than that, waterlogging makes commuting a problem. And here also, encroachment has a part to play. So many multi-storeyed buildings have been constructed in such small spaces that there is hardly any free space left.
Another problem is that of the entangled wires hovering overhead, which is dangerous and might lead to massive fires. Moreover, the number of such wires is increasing. The wires which should have been underground are hanging overhead. Only few of the shops keep fire extinguishers. If the government imposes strict rules regarding these, then surely everyone will start keeping one in their shops.
We approached the Councillor of our area several times and spoke about the space issue. But he was not of much help. We need more space to properly regulate the shops in this area. There are spaces which are available, but they are either personal properties or owned by Delhi Board.
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is irresponsible. They should have controlled such haphazard and random encroachments, maintained the cleanliness of the area. We have written letters to the authorities many times, citing our grievances. But we have not got any response.
The authorities have always claimed that they will look into these matters, but nothing more than that. If the management is strict, then a lot of these issues can be solved. But most of the time, they settle such matters with those who are at fault for a consideration. This should be stopped.
Mukhtar Ahmed is a businessman and the ex-President of Tiraha Behram Traders’ Association.
— As told to Shruti Das