The much-awaited renovation project of Ashoka Market, one of the oldest market complexes of the capital, may finally see the light of the day. Although the decision to renovate it was taken since long, some of the licensees (shop owners) in the market complex had filed cases in the Orissa High Court against the renovation. But the High Court in a recent judgment has directed the licensees to shift their shops to new locations allotted by BDA within two weeks’ time to facilitate the development authority to go ahead with the new construction.
It has been decided to renovate the complex as a pilot project under the Bhubaneswar Town Center (BTC) plan. Following the court judgment, BDA has already initiated the process to rehabilitate some of the licensees.
In the first phase, 129 licensees or shop owners of Ashoka Market have been allotted temporary shops at different locations across the city. The locations include Chandralok Market Complex, Niladri Vihar, Ananta Vihar Market Complex, Pokhariput, Samanta Vihar Market Complex near Kalinga Hospital Square, Kalinga Nagar Market Complex (two locations in K-7 and one in K-8 of Kalinga Nagar), Indradhanu Market Complex, Nayapalli and Surya Kiran Market Complex in Sahid Nagar.
The initial phase of allotment was held through a lottery process conducted within the premises of the Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA).
Elaborating on it, Additional Commissioner BDA Bhawani Shankar Chaini said, “As we are going to work towards a railway station and bus-stand of international level in this Master Canteen area, we have to renovate the market complex too. Besides being one of the oldest market complexes in the city, it was lying in a precarious condition, which could have been dangerous too. So, we had to reconstruct the building.”
He further informed, “Recently, the Honourable High Court has ordered all shop owners to vacate the building. So, we have already informed 129 shop owners to vacate their shops and move to their allotted shops in the city for the time being. The ambitious project has been assigned to Singapore-based Surbana Jurong Consultants and I am hopeful that they will be able to redesign and complete the project in three years’ time. After completion of work, we would be giving preference to all our earlier licensees besides new allotments.”
Meanwhile despite the court judgment, the shop owners appear to be in protest mode. Talking about the inconvenience being caused to them, Secretary, Ashoka Market Merchant Society Sanjiv Kumar Agarwal told MCL, “Since February 2015, BDA has been conveying us about the renovation work of the building, but till now no proper action has been taken to rehabilitate us. There are 133 shops in this complex, out of which four are government establishments and the rest are private, some of the owners managing their livelihood from these shops for the last 30 years. Now, suddenly they want to remove us from here, the heart of the city, allotting us shops in the interior locations of the capital which is unfair. That might definitely affect our business.”
He further said, “Location apart, the authorities haven’t taken into consideration the size of our shops either. Like for example, many of us are running business here in 400 square feet area while what we have been allotted is just 170 square feet area, which is not justified. So, these things will directly affect our livelihood. We have therefore decided to approach a higher forum for justice.”
“We are not opposing the renovation of the building but at the same time, we demand for our convenience. We are requesting the authorities to place us in areas, closer to the complex. Even we have selected some locations which are lying unused like the one behind Unit 3 Big Bazaar, or the vacant area at the backside of CPIM office. But the authorities are not taking our suggestions, precisely why we are not willing to cooperate,” he concluded.