SHOPIAN: Fifty two shops in this town are crumbling as their allotment has been entangled in a court case since 2003. Dozens of shop-owners decried the callous attitude of the government, alleging that they took their money but failed to hand over the shops.
Rows of shops, situated near Batpora Bus stand, have developed cracks in their walls, as they no maintenance was carried out for 14 after their construction.
Abdul Rasheed, president of the shopkeepers’ federation in the town, said that there was an open auction of land in 2003 where the committee charged the traders Rs 3.5 lac for handing over the possession of each shop and fixed a yearly rent of five rupees per square feet. Rasheed is one of the beneficiaries.
“As soon as they raised the first story of the five shopping blocks (52 Shops), we found that substandard material was used by the contractors and these shops had developed cracks in their walls and cement slabs before the inauguration. We informed the concerned authorities, who deputed a team of engineers to assess the situation. They reported the constructions were unsafe as substandard material was used during the construction,” he said.
On the request of the shopkeepers, the municipal committee allowed the shop-owner to construct the second floor of the shops on their own. But the issue was taken to court after District Development Commissioner stopped the shopkeepers from constructing the second story of the shopping blocks.
Executive Officer of the municipal committee, Imtiyaz Ahmad Dar, says that the then executive officer had allotted the second story to the same shop-owner and the move violated official procedure. “The first floor was not built under laydown procedure,” he said, adding that allotting the second floor to the same shopkeepers that had taken the first one was not allowed.
Dar, however, says that his agency was ready to negotiate an out of court settlement, if the shop-owners withdrew the court case. “We can not interfere till the court verdict does not come,” he said. “We too are facing losses due to this controversy. It is these shop-owners who dragged the issue to court, else we would have found a solution,” he said.
Shopkeepers federation said that the court has actually stayed the then deputy commissioner’s order and asked us to continue construction, but the deputy commissioner “did not allowed us to continue construction”.
Shop-owner, however, question why the officials ignored the laid down procedure when they gave an order raise the second floor. “They didn’t utter a word that the constructions were not as per procedure, why did they stop our work after heavy investments,” one shop-owner lamented.
“We went to his (deputy Commissioner’s) office to know the reasons for stopping our work, instead of giving us some relief, he ordered the police to put us behind bars,” the shop-owner added. “They asked us to pay Rs 15000 before starting construction and a yearly rent of Rs 3 per square feet for second story,” he added.
Another shopkeeper, Manzoor Ahmad, said that they collectively paid Rs 1.85 crore to the government during the auction. “Other than the money which we have paid to the municipal committee, material worth Rs 40 lac is going waste.”