‘Renovation project worth crores dropped after shopkeepers created hindrances’

*Business as usual in ‘unsafe’ Parade Mandi

Sanjeev K Sharma

JAMMU, July 5: Despite declared “unsafe” by the concerned authorities, business remains as usual at the oldest vegetable market in Jammu where buyers throng daily to purchase fruits and vegetables at competitive prices.
Poor cleanliness and insanitary conditions prevail in the market which is locally popular as ‘Parade Mandi’. As one enters this very place, filth spread over most part of the Mandi with vegetable and fruit wastes spread all along can be seen with swarms of flies buzzing everywhere and this unhealthy scenario is there right from the last many decades due to which it even becomes difficult to walk there especially when it rains.
The Mandi presents numerous open vends selling vegetables and fruits and the seller shout their prices to attract the buyers while the price of the commodities fall slowly as the evening nears.
There are dirty drains also along the shops and residential flats which are on the verge of collapse due to their dilapidated condition because of which these structures have been declared unsafe by the authorities concerned.
Many flats have trees and bushes grown over their walls while the lids over the drains and manholes in the Mandi are also worn out with time.
There were reports stating that a load carrier vehicle was damaged few days back after a slab from a residential flat fell over it while it was standing in the Mandi area after unloading commodities while another shopkeeper claimed that a boy working with him sustained grievous injuries after plaster from the roof of the shop fell over him while he was taking rest inside his shop in the Mandi.
As per sources Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) had a project with hefty budget of more than Rs. 25 crore to reconstruct and renovate the Mandi under a project of Smart City but the locals especially the shopkeepers objected and raised certain demands which were unable to accept by the authorities as per the norms.
They said that under the project tiles were to be laid all along inside the Mandi along with installation of water ATMs, construction of public toilets, erection of sheds and many more infrastructure.
“The JMC authorities were going to convert our spacious shops into very small ones to which we objected as that would have badly affected our business,” Subhash Chander Sharma, president of Parade Mandi vendors and shopkeepers claimed adding that the path from Moti Bazar side to Mandi was also to be reduced under the proposed plan.
A source familiar with the issue said that the shopkeepers wanted new shops and a spacious platform in front of it which they may rent out to some vendors.
“In every meeting these stake holders raised renewed demands,” he said adding that many owners of utensil shops outside the Mandi also joined meetings with JMC on pretext of being deputation members.
When contacted Rahul Yadav, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jammu Smart City Limited (JSCL) who is also JMC Commissioner informed that there was a well planned project on modern lines for Parade Mandi under Smart City but the locals of the area and the shopkeepers created hindrances to that.
“Under the project, the old structures were to be dismantled to construct the new ones and for that first of all the shops and flats were to be vacated,” he informed.
The JMC Commissioner said: “We agreed to construct the structures for the legal allottees but leaders of the Mandi asked for accommodating the left over people also and we conceded that demand too but as there is limited area in the Mandi, the space for the shops was to be reduced to accommodate the new entrants but the shopkeepers objected to it.”
He said that this clearly meant that they (shopkeepers) were not interested in the solution.
“Still we decided to accommodate some people in courtyard after which the shopkeepers raised a new demand of 8 feet space in front of their shops,” Yadav continued adding: “They wanted us to accommodate even those who were non-allottees and they were also not in favour of reducing size of their shops for that besides they also demanded 8 feet space in front of their shops and all this was not possible in a limited space in the Mandi.”
He said that this was only possible with multi-storey building for shops but the shopkeepers wanted all shops on ground floor.
“Ultimately the project was dropped in October 2022 as 10-12 meetings with the shopkeepers reached no consensus,” the CEO of JSCL stated.
Sources informed that after the project was dropped the Urban Local Body sent notices to all the occupants of flats and shops alerting them that all those structures in Mandi were unsafe.
Some insiders informed that leaders of the Mandi had sublet the space in front of their shops which fetch them handsome earnings and they wanted to accommodate those running vends on the space in front of their shops in the dropped project.
They further informed that the then JMC Mayor, Chander Mohan Gupta and Deputy Mayor, Purnima Sharma also made strenuous efforts to persuade the shopkeepers but were disappointed as the latter remained adamant over demands which were not feasible.

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