The trees are already being evicted. Axed is the right word. Now, even flowers are feeling threatened. Actually, it’s the flower sellers. The BBMP wants to demolish the Gandhi Bazaar Corporation Market (GBCM) and replace it with a seven-storey parking complex. Considering the parking woes in the thriving Gandhi Bazaar, such a complex would be most welcome. However, flower sellers who got shops on rent in the GBCM are unwilling to let go without a ‘rehabilitation package’.
The plan for a parking complex was mooted four years ago, but never took off due to the challenges in execution — paucity of funds and opposition from the 30 tenants.
Most are third-generation traders whose forefathers got tenancy rights when the market was established in 1953. Each pays Rs 120 per month to the BBMP for about 48 sq ft of space. They fear displacement would be painful for their business and personally.
The plan was in limbo till Mayor B.S. Satyanarayana woke up to the congestion problem. Anyone who has been to Gandhi Bazaar will tell you that finding a parking spot is a challenge. Motorists have encroached on every lane, by-lane, nook and corner. There is no scope to create fresh parking space. But a minute scrutiny of the area revealed the potential of GBCM.
The footpaths outside are overflowing with hawkers but the market is deserted except for a few flower sellers and vegetable vendors. Considering the cost of renting space in the area, it is difficult to miss the irony.
The few tenants The Hindu spoke to complained about the poor condition of the structure and the lack of basic amenities. They appear open to a repackaging of the structure provided they don’t have to give up their space. N. Prabhakara, leader of the Gandhi Bazaar Main Market Traders Association, told The Hindu, “All tenants must be allotted shops in the new complex and given alternative space during the period of construction.”
Now, corporators have found a way to fund the project. Sceptics attribute the zeal to the desperation of some politicians to showcase a major achievement. But, there is one hitch.
P.M. Sadashiva, the local councillor, said, “The funds will come from the 13th Finance Commission. But the condition is that the BBMP can’t accommodate a market in the complex. The traders are tenants. The BBMP is not legally bound to rehabilitate them. Rehabilitation and/or re-allotment can be considered only on humanitarian grounds, which requires a political decision.” Naveen Kumar, a flower vendor, said, “If the BBMP goes ahead with its plans, we will fight the injustice in courts and on the streets.” This project, if it takes off, has the potential to lay the roadmap for decongesting this city.