Vehicle ban on S.M. Street: traders on the warpath again

The ban on vehicle entry to S.M. Street, the city’s iconic market place, is likely to flare up in the coming days as the traders there are planning to launch a series of agitations seeking its reversal.

Leading the pack of protesters is the Left-leaning Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Samiti. Its district president Abdul Gafoor told
The Hindu
on Sunday that business had been hit badly in the past one-and-a-half years ever since the authorities imposed the ban ahead of the renovation works. “S.M. Street indeed has a heritage value. But what is the purpose of a businessplace if there is no footfall?” he asks. Mr. Gafoor claimed that many traders were on the brink of closing down their units as they were also affected by the lull following the Nipah outbreak and natural disasters.

“We generally get a good business during the Id-ul-Fitr. But this time, many burnt their hands as people came for shopping only at the fag end of Ramzan due to the Nipah scare. It was followed by the havoc wreaked by the monsoon which reduced business from villages and other towns in the district,” he said.

Ashraf Moothedath, district functionary of the Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samiti, the largest body of traders in the State, echoed Mr. Gafoor’s views. “Many of our members say their business has come down by half. It is better if the vehicle ban is lifted,” he said.

Meanwhile, there have also been reports that traders are terminating employees citing lack of business. Sources in trade unions representing labourers in shops in the street said scores had lost their jobs in recent months.

Solution

Mr. Gafoor says the authorities need to take steps to allow vehicle entry and set up a parking plaza in the area soon to revive the hopes of traders. “We have submitted memorandums to the Chief Minister and the other decision-makers. Though they had initially batted for the ban on vehicle entry, we have tried to convince them about the gravity of the current scenario,” he said. The samiti is planning a token hunger strike in front of the S.K. Square from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday. Meetings have been planned with elected representatives later to seek their help, Mr. Gafoor added.

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