“I had to discontinue my studies after my father’s shop was sealed. The coaching centre asks for a lot of money. Now that my father’s earnings have been cut, I cannot afford the tuitions. How am I supposed to continue my studies?” asked 20-year-old Astha Ansari, who was among the thousands that gathered at Ramlila Maidan on Wednesday to protest against the ongoing sealing drive in the Capital.
“I appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to de-seal the shops immediately,” added the second-year Delhi University student.
Enduring the heat on Wednesday afternoon, traders gathered at the iconic protest site along with their family members to demand an immediate halt to the sealing drive. The traders also warned the government of further demonstrations if the shops were not de-sealed.
The strike was called by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) and the All Delhi Traders and Workers’ Association. Sadar Bazar, Lajpat Nagar, Chandni Chowk, Karol Bagh and Chawri Bazar were among the markets that were closed.
The traders have been agitating against the sealing drive for the last three months. “The government should not consider us weak. If the authorities don’t heed today’s demonstration then they should be prepared for bigger movements. The ongoing sealing drive is nothing but a conspiracy against the tax-paying traders,” said Praveen Khandelwal, general secretary of the CAIT.
He added that a bigger movement would be launched if the government didn’t take any action in the next seven days.
‘Will go to Noida’
“The government should not test our patience anymore. If need be, we will shift our businesses to Noida, Faridabad and other places. We will also stop paying the taxes. Once the traders decide to do so, the government will be left with nothing and will be forced to bow down before us,” said Mr. Khandelwal, who led the rally.
The sealing has affected over 40 lakh people across Delhi, Mr. Khandelwal said.
A large number of women entrepreneurs were also present at the event. “My son had his Class XII board exams on the day the sealing took place in our locality. It was a traumatic time for all of us and now the children are thinking of dropping out and taking up a job just to support the family. It is unfortunate that after following the law, this is what we are being subjected to,” said 44-year-old Sonia Grover, whose apparel store in Amar Colony was recently sealed.
‘Treated like terrorists’
Poonam Saluja, a shop owner in the same locality, said: “We pay taxes and have requisite documents. However, nobody wanted to check our papers. We were dragged out by our hair by the women constables... we are being treated like terrorists.”
Highlighting the financial crisis being faced by businessmen and employees, Sunil Jain, a member of the Marble Association of Chhatarpur, said: “We have been doing business for over 26 years and have paid crores in taxes. After giving us all the required permissions, now suddenly they [the authorities] come and seal our business. More than 10,000 workers have been affected due to this action.”
BJP MLA O. P. Sharma, who is a member of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), was at the event. “The monitoring panel is misusing its powers as the shops that have paid conversion charges have also been sealed. The traders’ right to earn is being snatched... The DDA submitted an affidavit 16 days ago, but no proceedings have taken place, ” said Mr. Sharma.