Protesting the steep hike in rent, shopkeepers in the Neyveli Township and the nearby areas downed shutters for a day on Monday. These included pharmacies and hotels, all rented out by the Neyveli Lignite Corporation management.

The four-fold increase in rent has forced over 1,000 shopkeepers to come under a common banner of Joint Council of the Traders’ Associations of Neyveli to take up their cause.

Association president V.N. Pandarinathan told The Hindu that the NLC management had increased the rent three to four times, depending upon the location, with effect from July 1.

Mr. Pandarinathan said that the shopkeepers were solely dependent upon the patronage of the NLC employees and workmen.

They faced problem now as the number of NLC employees were dwindling. In 2002 the NLC management had entered into an agreement with traders to increase the rent by 10 per cent every third year. Following this formula the rent had now gone up to 30 per cent over and above what was prevailing in 2002. As the traders were struggling to cope with the existing rent structure, it was improbable for them to pay the revised rent , Mr Pandarinathan said.

The NLC sources told this correspondent that in the past two years the management had resorted to auctioning which fetched a substantial rent for the new shops and those which were vacant. It prompted the management to constitute a committee of executives, at the Deputy General Manager level, to study the rent structure in the neighbouring areas and suggest a new rent formula for the NLC owned shops.

Accordingly the committee had recommended 400 per cent rent increase for the shops located in the Main Bazaar area and 300 per cent for those in other areas in the township, the sources said.

The joint council is of the view that if the revised rent structure is enforced, the shopkeepers will have to get ready for a protracted struggle.

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