KERALA

Hartal in Kottayam town today

FOR WIDER ROADS: Demolition of buildings in progress along General Post Office Road in Kottayam on Sunday.

FOR WIDER ROADS: Demolition of buildings in progress along General Post Office Road in Kottayam on Sunday.  

Staff Reporter

Protest against demolition of shops

KOTTAYAM: The Kerala Vyapari Vayvasayi Ekopana Samithy (KVVES) has declared a hartal in Kottayam town on Monday against what they termed the unilateral action of the municipal authorities in demolishing shops along Post Office Road in connection with the road widening project.

Meanwhile, the demolition drive which began by 10.30 a.m. was called back by noon on the basis of an interim stay order from the Supreme Court. The issue relates to the road widening project on the Post Office Road which acts as a vital link in the road transport scenario of the town. The less than 300 m stretch of road links the private bus terminal in the heart of the town with the NH 220 and the Main Central Road on the Kottayam-Ernakulam stretch. It is part of one of the oldest road networks in the town and houses a series of shops which are operating on the sides for decades.

Widening of the road was one vital part of the road improvement drive in the town. According to Municipal authorities, the buildings that have been identified for demolition on Sunday were those which had been surrendered by its owners. They had also issued notices for the purpose. However, the district leaders of the KVVES said that talks were going on with the municipal authorities and the tenants who had been running business in the buildings for more than four decades. It was agreed that they would be asked to move out only after providing alternative space for running their business. However, on Friday night by 7 p.m., municipal authorities, accompanied by policemen, arrived at their shops and pasted 24 hour eviction notices. They had moved a writ petition in the High Court on May 31, but it could not be heard as the Chief Justice and the Judge in Charge were not available. That is why they had to move the Apex Court.

‘Unilateral move’

Speaking to media persons on Sunday evening, the KVVES leaders alleged that the unilateral move on the part of the municipal authorities was to serve the interests of a local real estate group. The Road Widening Project had originally envisaged a 25 m road, but it had been scaled down to a 15 m one, so that the building constructed by the particular group would be saved. The present eviction would also save the interests of the owners of the shops.

“The only losers would be petty shop keepers whose only source of income was their shop,” said M. K. Khader, district secretary. The notices were served on 17 shops but the drive had to be called back after the demolition of seven of them. These shops include flowershops, pan shops and such other petty shops.

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