After the brawl between the traders and Indo-Tibetan Border Police Personnel, which left several persons injured on Saturday, the situation in Mayapuri remained tense on Monday.
The sealing drive has given sleepless nights to the workers and traders of the area. National Green Tribunal (NGT), in its order, had directed South Delhi Municipal Corporation and Delhi Pollution Control Committee to identify small industrial units engaged in dismantling in old and used cars through gas cutters, violating pollution norms. After surveying the area, the committee found 812 units should stop gas cutting work. However, the recommendation to seal the units without any relocation has enraged the traders.
One such trader Babbu Singh, who has been trading motor parts, alleged that the drive is knee-jerk reaction from South Delhi Municipal Corporation, and it will leave thousands of workers jobless.
Recalling his old days, the trader clad in white Kurta said that they were shifted from Motia Khan in Pahar Ganj to Mayapuri during emergency for trading old motor parts and storage. He said," When we were allotted this land, no facilities were provided to us and we remained under constant threat to life as snakes and scorpions came out of their holes regularly. Now, the area is full-fledged flourishing market, and now they have problems with us."
To the question of the eviction, Babbu said, "We were not served any notice and the administration has come up with 48-hour time for clearing the entire area. This is impossible! When National Green Tribunal asked Delhi Development Authority for alternate land, it was clueless. A few people are vacating their places, but 97% people do not have any choice. We have lakhs of tonnes of spare parts with us. Where should we go with this stuff?"
He said, "After demonetisation, the cash flow remained stagnant for almost two years. As it started gaining momentum, the government came back with this new disaster? How will we run our households, pay school fees for our children? This is repetition of Partition for us.”
He added that the industry in this area supports 10,000 families. Apart from this, around 1 lakh migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal earn their livelihood from this area. He emphasised, "With sealing imposed in this autocratic manner, these families will be completely ruined. First, the government did not create any job opportunity. Now, it is snatching jobs from poor families. They moved to Delhi because they did not get any jobs back in their villages. Now, they are optionless."
The anguish of the traders have caused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to have jitters, as the party has been cashing their support since its formation. Apart from GST and demonetisation, traders believe that South Delhi Municipal Corporation ruled by the BJP did not take any proactive action to save their businesses from sudden closure. Reports suggest that even BJP realises that the shift of the traders’ loyalty can decimate its chances of good performance in upcoming polls on May 12. The desperation of BJP to save its trusted vote bank could be gauged from the fact that no other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the traders in Talkatora Stadium on April 18 in Delhi.
Suresh Kumar, a transporter who hails from Uttar Pradesh, suggests that everyone is linked with the business. He said, it is not like only the traders are involved in this business. There are people who extract rubber, glass and metal. Even the ragpickers earn their livelihoods. What will happen to them? The closure has already started showing its impact.”
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Rangi Lal, who is also Pradhan of slums besides Rewari Railway line on Delhi Cantonment station, has lost his "chowkidaar" job in one of neighbouring factories in the last three days. He said, "I was summoned by the owner only to inform that my services were no longer required. The owner told that I was hired for security of the scrap. Since the scrap has been seized and factory sealed, I do not know how will I raise my children. Neighbours can lend you money one or two days, but what will you after that?"
When asked about Main Bhi Chowkidaar campaign by Bharatiya Janata Party, Lal said, "Only PM Narendra Modi can afford such posturing? He has repeatedly said that he used to sell tea at the platform. Does he not know the pain of it? It is us who suffered from his misdeeds? GST and demonetisation slowed work in the factories. Now, small traders are facing imminent closure due to sealing."
It is often quoted that politics entirely depend on perception and the game of perception tilted further in favour of Aam Aadmi Party when Baldev Jakhar, a lawyer and its candidate from West Delhi of which Mayapuri is also a part, successfully brought some relief in form of stay on hefty fine of Rs 1 lakh from Delhi High Court.
However, it is the children who have emerged as the largest casualty in interplay of politics and blame game. While observing the pitiable conditions of workers in the slums, the NewsClick met several children who were filling their utensils from a tap on platform number 2 of Delhi Cantonment station. Vishal, aged 10, said that his family depends on the water by these taps only. They cautiously fill their canisters as they are often beaten by the guards of Railway Protection Force. He said, a few children have come under trains when they were chased away by these guards. His father, who was extracting glass from old cars has told him that they will leave for their village on coming Monday. “I want to live here but what can I do. Kya hawa khakar rahenge? (Can we survive by consuming air?)”
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