Special Correspondent

Traders given more time

Thiruvananthapuram: The Revenue Department on Friday extended the deadline for traders in the Puthenchantha area to vacate their premises for the widening of MG Road by a week, even as the shopkeepers facing displacement stepped up their demand for rehabilitation.

Shops and business establishments on MG Road from Spencer Junction to Overbridge downed shutters in response to a hartal called by the Puthenchantha unit of the Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi (KVVES). The traders took out a march to the Secretariat and staged a dharna. The hartal was total.

District Collector N. Ayyappan said the decision to extend the deadline to March 23 was taken following a High court order on a writ petition filed by a section of traders. While dismissing the petition, the court granted a week's time for the complainants to move out. "Though the order was in response to the petition filed by a section of traders, we decided to stay the eviction measures along the entire stretch for a week," he said.

The KVVES submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister. "The High Court has stayed eviction after the Government filed an affidavit stating that only 4.5 m will be acquired from either side of the road. The Revenue Department has flouted the guidelines issued by the court for land acquisition," the memorandum said.

The KVVES said the Revenue authorities had used the police to serve a notice asking the traders to vacate their shops by 3 p.m. on Friday or face eviction.

The memorandum urged the Government to withdraw the notice and work out a rehabilitation plan. The KVVES said the traders would vacate the shops on their own if their demands were approved.

The Collector said the eviction notice was served only because a handful of tenants were refusing to vacate even after the land owners had handed over possession to the Government.

About the rehabilitation of traders, he said, "As the land acquisition officer, my responsibility is to take possession of the 74 plots that are being acquired for road widening. The Thiruvananthapuram Development Authority will have to think of relocation. However, I am willing to convene a meeting if the traders approach me with their demands."

Trida sources said it was up to the Government to take a decision on rehabilitating the traders. "The whole issue boils down to the failure of the tenants to come to an understanding with the landowners. During earlier negotiations, Trida had offered to accommodate them in one of the shopping complexes under the authority. But they did not respond to the proposal," an official said.