Most of the vendors have been carrying out their business here for several years NEW DELHI: The two popular fish markets of Chittaranjan Park – ‘ Mini Kolkata ’ of the Capital – are facing an existential threat with South Delhi Municipal Corporation ( SDMC ) suddenly issuing notices to the vendors , questioning the legality of their operation and asking them to close down their shops.This has sent ripples through the residents of the colony and patrons of these markets who come from across the city because of the variety available under one roof.
Most of the vendors have been carrying out their business here for several years.One of them is 72-year-old Nirmal Hazra, who arrived in Delhi in 1969.He initially assisted a vendor but ventured out on his own soon, opening his own shop at Market No.2.
Decades later, he — like some other fish vendors at the two markets – have been slapped with closure notices on account of absence of “valid licences and due to unhygienic conditions.” He recalled how he had seen the colony grow from a mere 200 houses when they used to hawk their fare on cycles.
“We are clueless why the corporation is doing this,” he said in despair.
The fish platforms, each having an area of about 2.25 square feet, were constructed in 2003 by Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and a list of eligible candidates was prepared by Land and Development Office following which allotments were made, claim the vendors.
The vice-president of East Bengal Displaced Person’s Association (EBDP), P K Paul, supports their claim: “Based on the L&DO list, allotments were made, depending on whether they were grocery stores or fish platforms.In 2006, we approached DDA and sought redevelopment so that the platforms could be raised and storage space and a shed provided.
All the fish vendors were allotted space in a corner of the markets.We are taken aback by these closure notices, and nothing has happened despite our meeting with several officials.” Paul said DDA too has been approached and they were now exploring the legal option.“Lives of around 500 families are dependent on this,” he added.
While fish is the staple diet of the Bengali community, these markets are the go-to place not just for the locals but for people across the city looking for a variety of freshwater fish and seafood.
Nirapodo Bijoli, a 64-year-old vendor at Market No.2, is puzzled that the “platforms were made by the authorities and now suddenly we are being told that we cannot carry out our business anymore.” Another fish seller, Aurobindo Das, said they had been badly hit by the Corona pandemic and these notices have come as a bolt from the blue.
“Each shop has at least 5-6 workers with families dependent on this business,” he pointed out.
“Licences are required for shops that are 10 feet by 10 feet but the allotments made to us were half the size.It was in 2005 that the handover happened officially.
Both SDMC and DDA are government agencies.Why are we being harassed?” asked Tapan Bose, who has been functioning from Market No.
1 for the past 47 years.
SDMC officials said the department issues licences to meat shops which are enclosed and not running on open platforms, completely ignoring the fact that fish markets across the country are indeed run on open platforms, whether in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore or Delhi unlike standalone mutton shops.
Striking a conciliatory note, an official said: “The shop owners have failed to share a copy of the allotment letter wherein the place is identified as a fish market.We are just asking them to prove the legality of these shops or ask DDA for help.
Based on their reply, we will ask the SDMC headquarters to make changes in the policy or allow modification of these structures.”
The vendors have written to the lieutenant-governor, councillor Subhash Bhadana and deputy commissioner, South Zone, requesting for regularising these shops.They claimed to have submitted all relevant documents.“The problem is that in these documents, nowhere is it mentioned that the platforms were assigned for selling fish.Also, these people never obtained SDMC licences,” he said.
He added that even the platforms permitted for commercial activities under SDMC norms were of a bigger size.
“Fish and these markets are an integral part of our lives.I come to the market every second day to get fresh stock,” said 56-year-old Arun Biswas, wondering what the corporation was trying to achieve.GK-II resident Neera Basu said the vendors should immediately go for the legal option.“These vendors have been here for ages now.How come some discrepancy has arisen after over a decade of allotment?”
Stating that being married to a Bengali had added to his fondness for various fish dishes, another customer, Abhinay Singh, said: “It is difficult to comprehend how fish shops, and that too in Chittaranjan Park, are being issued closure notices.
Doesn’t this lie at the heart of the Bengali community?”
(With input from Vibha Sharma)
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