Violent protest over relocation of vegetable market

LAHORE: Police, on Monday, arrested more than 148 vegetable sellers, middlemen and daily wagers after their protest against shifting of city’s market turned violent on main Ferozepur Road and in addition to pelting stones, they burned a Tehsil Municipal Administration (TMA) vehicle as well.The protest was launched by vegetable market union activists against the government’s plan to shift market from Kot Lakhpat area, while offering them meager money against their worthy shops. The protest began at 8am in the morning when hundreds of protester blocked traffic on Ferozepur Road for more than two hours.The protesting mob broke big flowerpots fixed in the middle of the road near the bridge to beautify the area, and also attacked the passing vehicles with sticks and stones.

When police reached the spot, the angry mob pelted stones on them and burnt a TMA vehicle to ashes.The road and the market turned into a literal war zone, causing the closure of Ferozepur Road. Many policemen as well as labourers were injured during the clash. In retaliation, the police constables started arieal firing and threw shells of tear-gas on the road. Later, more police squads were called to help clear the area along with police hamvees and police prisoner vans.The clash caused injuries to several citizens, who were immediately shifted to nearby hospitals. Police had to call for special stone-proof vehicles for their safety. To overpower the mobs, police resorted to aerial firing and tear-gas shelling. Police arrested a large number of vegetable sellers, middlemen and daily wagers and tied them with each other’s shirts so that they may not escape. Police thrashing and arresting continued for more than two hours.

Following the physical fights during the raid, some officials from the TMA Enforcement Squad Nistar Town picked up grocery items’ sacks from outside the shops and disappeared from the scene.Later, the TMA called bulldozers and destroyed all the temporary shops of vegetable sellers built in the middle of the market and arrested more than 148 labourers and daily wagers and shifted them to police stations through special prisoner vans. Most of the unionists, however, managed to escape from the scene.A union member, while talking to Daily Times, said that the TMA administration had offered to give them Rs 1million only against their shops worth Rs10 million. He said they were being subjected to injustice and the government must consider their genuine demands.

Separately, Jawad Rafiq Ahmed, the newly appointed commissioner of Lahore Division, said that those who took law in their hands will be dealt with iron hand.Last year, the government formally announced the shift of Kot Lakhpat vegetable market to the Gajumatta area on a 1,000 kanal land. The decision had been taken in accordance with the Punjab chief minister’s directions in this regard. The city government had chalked out a plan according to which the first phase included the allocation of shops in the new market and which had to end by January 31.

The DCO had also formed a five-member committee to assess the value of shops and lands of the dealers so that land of similar value is given to the shop keepers in the Gajumatta market.Meanwhile, the LDA spokesman said that most of the traders of the market favoured the shifting and only a handful of “troublemakers” were against the decision due to their vested interests.He said that the LDA Engineering Wing had estimated Rs 340 million for acquiring 227 shops, Rs 20 million for a mosque construction, Rs 1.1 million for post office building, Rs 4.9 million for the market committee office and Rs 3 million for kiosks in the market. – Dailytimes