The future of 400-odd shopkeepers is at stake, as the Punjab government and the RUDA go ahead with their plan to move Sabzi Mandi, Machhi Mandi and Rim Market outside of Lahore
he provincial government’s recent nod to move three major markets — namely, Sabzi Mandi (in Badami Bagh), Machhi Mandi (Lohari Gate) and Rim Market (Walled City) — to an area that falls within the jurisdiction of the Ravi Urban Development Authority (RUDA) has put the future of 400-odd shopkeepers at stake. The shopkeepers are up in arms and asking for a reversal of the order.
The city administration is believed to have been planning to evict these shopkeepers without offering them any place in RUDA’s proposed area or any compensation. The shopkeepers are thus left with no choice but to pay large amounts of money to purchase a place on market rates.
Sources in the city administration say that the authorities consider these shopkeepers illegal occupants of state land. That’s why the government doesn’t want to enter into any kind of negotiation with the ‘encroachers.’ All the shops in Rim Market were built on state land, illegally, says an official not wanting to be named. He adds that strict and swift action is on the cards to dislodge the encroachers. For the time being, however, the administration is mulling the pros and cons of the proposed anti-encroachment operation.
The source claims that the relocation of the three markets is a gigantic and cumbersome task, given the number of affected people who will likely approach the courts to demand relief. Already, the shopkeepers of Rim Market have indicated that they are not ready to budge an inch. Likewise, the owners of these markets aren’t willing to leave their businesses.
There is little chance that the RUDA will be able to provide the required 322 acres of land it had promised to the city administration, within the stipulated time. A RUDA official says on condition of anonymity that the Authority hasn’t got such a huge piece of land with access from both the GT Road and the Ring Road. That’s why it is still unable to provide the exact location of the proposed land.
Akhtar Malik, the owner of an aarhat, says he won’t move business unless all infrastructures are in place and basic facilities are provided. “First of all, we need access to the GT Road and the Ring Road,” he says.
Amjad Hussain, the owner of a shop in the Rim Market, says it loud and clear: “We won’t let anybody deprive us of our bread and butter. The [city] administration has evil plans to expel us from our legitimate properties. I’ve been doing business here for over a decade. I will fight to the end to protect my lifeline.”
Akhtar Malik, the owner of an aarhat, says he won’t move business unless all infrastructure was well in place and basic facilities were provided. “First of all, we need access to the GT Road and the Ring Road,” he says. “We don’t even know the exact location of the proposed land. The administration is keeping information from us.”
n a high-level meeting recently, Commissioner Muhammad Ali Randhawa announced that the area reserved for fruit, vegetable and fish markets by the RUDA had been connected to the main roads.
The commissioner maintained that the need of the hour was to protect Lahore’s heritage and clean up Bhati Chowk. He asserted that the transfer of Macchi Mandi and the Rim Market would go ahead as planned and the businesses would not suffer. “By shifting these [markets] to the RUDA-designated area, the traffic congestion on Circular Road and Badami Bagh would reduce,” he added.
A source privy to the meeting says that the new marketplaces will have all facilities related to infrastructure and services, such as roads, sewerage, connectivity, electricity, cold storages, banks, shops, security gates, bus stops, truck/ taxi stands, public transport, roads links to the city and the suburbs, water, restrooms, dining rooms, cleanliness staff, police checkposts, a modern auction system, big screens and corporate offices.
About the fish market, the source says the land being proposed for the purpose should be adjacent to the vegetable market. Similarly, the land for Rim Market is also supposed to be in the vicinity. “Land will also be allocated for a slaughterhouse,” he adds. “You can say that it will be a huge complex having three important markets and the slaughterhouse in one place.”
The writer is a print and broadcast journalist