The ‘lock and seal' action taken by the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) and Chennai Corporation on 25 unauthorised commercial establishments on Monday may just be a beginning.

Sources said that in the CMDA's further course of action, more violators were likely to be pulled up. According to a senior official, the CMDA had originally decided to issue ‘lock and seal' notices to 31 commercial establishments.

To start with, it issued notices to 25 establishments. Of those, buildings of only six commercial establishments were locked and sealed on Monday. “These establishments had not responded to our notice issued a month ago or produced valid plan permissions. A few others have given some relevant documents which we are currently scrutinising. If we find that their response is not convincing, we will certainly lock and seal their buildings very soon,” he said.

Meanwhile, sources in the Chennai Corporation said a few commercial establishments had obtained a stay order against lock and seal action from a city civil court. “We will bring this to the High Court's notice when the case comes up for hearing tomorrow [Tuesday],” an official said.

The stores had anticipated action soon after the notices were issued about a month ago and sought a stay order immediately, sources said.

Even on Monday, the stores seemed to know that action would be taken, for many of them had their staff ready as early as 6 a.m. “Ask all of them to assemble downstairs. Let the women stand in front,” a store manager directed his colleagues, in an attempt to prevent action. However, the CMDA was also equally prepared, and had come with adequate number of officials and hundreds of police personnel to carry out the operation.

Activists have hailed the action taken against unauthorised constructions. “This is definitely a positive step in the right direction and we are confident that, in future, there will be a bona fide attempt to conform to rules and regulations by all stake holders,” says S. Saroja of the Citizen consumer and civic Action Group, which challenged the ordinance promulgated by the State Government in 2007 with regard to enforcement action against unauthorised development in Chennai Metropolitan Planning Area for a period of one year.

However, traders decided to represent to the Chief Minister.

Members of the Ranganathan Street Merchants Association have also submitted a petition to the Chief Minister's office. A.M.Vikramaraja, State President, Federation of Tamil Nadu Merchants Association, said: “Several lakh workers are employed in these stores. This is a livelihood issue,” he said.

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