More than 100 small traders in Old Washermenpet cited damage to business

Trade wars between small traders in Old Washermepet in north Chennai came out in the open on Tuesday when more than a hundred traders tried to block two key stretches there demanding removal of hawkers from the pavements.

Around 11 a.m., traders assembled in large numbers and tried to block the stretches. However, a large police contingent from Royapuram and Washermenpet ensured that traffic was not affected and pacified the traders. A few Corporation officials too came to the spot and spoke to the traders, who demanded immediate removal of hawkers in front of the commercial complex built exclusively for small traders in textiles and fancy items.

Agitated traders said that the hawkers had destroyed their business over the years as consumers preferred to buy from the hawkers as the products on the roadside shops were cheaper. Further, as most hawkers have their make-shift shops on the pavements and in front of the complex, consumers find it more convenient to buy from these shops. At present, around 50 hawkers have their make-shift shops on the pavements. During festivals, the number increases to around 400.

“Hawkers have encroached on pavements and blocked the entry and exit points of the commercial complex. We have taken up the issue many times with the Corporation but no action has been taken so far,” said K. Selvanathan, president, MC Road Small Traders Association.

The two stretches, namely M C Road and G A Road, are said to be a hub for traders in jewellery, textiles and fancy items. For years, the existing traders were hawkers on the same pavements. After the High Court directed the Corporation to relocate the hawkers, the local body constructed a separate commercial complex and rented it out to 133 small traders. “Just as they (traders) were earlier, we are now selling products on the pavements. We are ready for re-location,” said K. Venketesh, a hawker.

Corporation officials said that it is difficult to locate a suitable place for a similar commercial complex for the hawkers.         

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