Popular markets in Delhi will remain shut on Friday and Saturday, as traders’ associations have called for a bandh to protest against the sealing drive being carried out by municipal corporations, The Indian Express reported.

Shops in Connaught Place, Chandni Chowk, Karol Bagh, Khan Market (pictured above), South Extension, Greater Kailash, Lajpat Nagar, Defence Colony and Green Park, were shut on Friday morning.

The Confederation of All India Traders, which claims the support of 2,000 traders’ associations, said the traders were shutting shop to “lodge a strong protest against arbitrary sealing of commercial establishments in Delhi”, the Hindustan Times reported.

The national secretary-general of the association, Praveen Khandelwal, told the newspaper, “CAIT has called for a complete shutdown in which more than seven lakh business establishments and 2,500 markets will participate. No commercial activity will take place and all wholesale and retail markets of Delhi will be completely shut.”

The associations decided to go ahead with their protests even after the Centre said it would look at ways to amend the Delhi master plan 2021 to give the traders some relief. Both traders and visitors will be hit as the bandh will continue over the weekend.

By Friday afternoon, traders marched in protest against the sealing drive, ANI reported.

In Rajya Sabha on Friday, newly-elected members from the Aam Aadmi Party raised slogans against the sealing drive, PTI reported.

Amid the traders’ protest, the members of the Delhi Development Authority met to discuss the master plan and the sealing drive.

“It is the BJP’s duty to fill loopholes in the master plan as it is in power at the Centre and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi,” Somnath Bharti, DDA member and AAP MLA told ANI after the meeting. “The sealing of shops could have been prevented,” said Bharti, adding that all the demands put forth by Kejriwal had been approved at the meeting.

BJP MLA and another DDA member Vijender Gupta said three proposals to amend the master plan were passed during the meeting and that they will be approved in another meeting over the next three days.

The sealing drive

Acting on instructions from a Supreme Court-appointed committee, civic officials shut down shops and restaurants in south Delhi’s Defence Colony Market on December 22 for alleged unauthorised constructions.

The civic body has since taken action against shops in 20 markets, including Khan Market, Mehar Chand Market, Sundar Nagar, Hauz Khas, Rajendra Nagar, Chhatarpur and Vasant Kunj. The shops were sealed as they allegedly have not paid conversion charges, and for encroachment and illegal construction, among other things.

The sealing drive is the latest flash point between the Aam Aadmi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party, which controls three municipal corporations in Delhi. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has said the government will approach the Supreme Court asking for a temporary ban on the sealing drive.

A day earlier, Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken met the Supreme Court-constituted monitoring committee on Thursday and told them the sealing drive in some of these markers was “illegal”, The Indian Express reported.

Maken, who was a minister of state for urban planning and during whose tenure the master plan was made, said additional floor-area-ratio and basements should be allowed in local shopping centres, and owners need not pay conversion charges as there was a provision in the law, the report said.