The Wholesale Iron and Steel Market in George Town was recently shifted to Sathangadu near Manali. This was part of the larger project initiated as early as 1975 by the CMDA to decongest the Central Business District - George Town.
In the absence of adequate infrastructure at the Sathangadu market, this move has resulted in the scattering of the wholesale merchants to various parts of the city. The shifting of the market has eased mobility in certain parts of George Town but it has also rendered hundreds of manual labourers jobless.
“Our daily income has dried up. The only income now is the remuneration we get by shifting the materials yet to be moved from the old iron market,” said T.Nagaraj, a labourer who has been working in the market for the past 40 years.
“We have not been allowed to work in the Sathangadu market, as the labourers’ association of the area is reluctant to let us work in their territory,” said R.Kanagaraj, another manual labourer.
Parking of vehicles has become much easier in the old Wholesale Iron and Steel Market now. Mobility is easier but there is nobody to come here, said K.Ponnurangam, another worker.
The transformation is also leading to the once-busy area losing its commercial significance. More than 2 lakh sqft of commercial space is lying unutilised in the areas of the Old Iron and Steel Market in George Town, said S.A.Azeez, secretary of the South India Iron and Hardware Merchants’ Association.
“We are using Sathangadu only as a godown, but we still have our office in the old place,” he said.
The administration of the business is still done from George Town.
The nearby Kothawal wholesale fruit and vegetable market was shifted a few years ago to Koyambedu. But the vacant space in the wholesale Kothawal market has been used by retail shops.
Similarly, permitting the merchants to carry out retail business of iron and steel may solve the problems of the labourers and boost the retail of iron and steel sheets, said S.C.M. Jamaldeen, president of the South India Iron and Hardware Merchants’ Association.
Around 30 per cent of the business in the area was for steel sheets. This business has now been affected. The Sathangadu Market is yet to have facilities for storage of the material.
“We have been forced to shift to the Sathangadu market in a short period. But the electricity board is unable to give power supply within the same period. Last week, it denied power connection to my shop,” said S.K.Jain, one of the iron merchants who shifted to Sathangadu recently.
Mobility in the area and profitability of our business do not go hand in hand, said S.Mahendran, a merchant at the Kothawal Market. Before shifting of the market to Koyambedu, we had better profits, he said.
Most of the establishments on Sembudoss Street, Jones Street and adjacent lanes and streets in George Town display little signs of business activity now.