District Collector K. Rajamani’s recent assertion that steps will be taken to make the new market at Kallikudi functional soon has brought into focus yet again the stalemate over the proposed shifting of the wholesale traders of Gandhi Market.
The Central Market for Vegetables, Fruits and Flowers at Kallikudi, situated about 12 km away from the city off Tiruchi-Madurai National Highway, was declared open in September 2017 and became functional from July last with a few shops being opened.
However, with the wholesale traders of Gandhi Market putting up stiff resistance to the move, the new market, built with financial assistance from National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, is in limbo.
The new market, the traders contend, is poorly designed and totally unsuitable for them. It is also too far and beyond easy access for customers.
Established on a nearly 10 acre site with over 800 shops, the market was built at the behest of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in July 2014, when she represented Srirangam Assembly constituency, in the wake of persistent demand for shifting the wholesale section of Gandhi Market to a more spacious location.
The Gandhi Market, established in 1940, houses over 725 permanent and pavement shops spread over an area of about six acres, and attracts thousands of traders and consumers every day. Wholesale and retail traders have co-existed here for several decades now.
Last year, when the district administration sought to press them to shift to the new market by banning entry of lorries, traders of Gandhi Market on Friday threatened an indefinite shutdown.
They demanded that they be allowed to continue their business at Gandhi Market at least for a year.
Contending that the livelihood of about 3,000 traders and 12,000 labourers was at stake, the traders said the shifting of the market would also adversely affect people as prices of vegetables at Gandhi Market are among the cheapest across markets in the State.
The traders said they were willing to move out if the district administration was able to identify a suitable site of about 25 acres. Alternatively, they should be given a year’s time to build their own market, they had demanded.
The traders offered to convert wholesale operations into a night market so that entry of lorries was restricted to 10 in the night and 6 in the morning. However, the system was not in force for long.
In recent months, the district administration has reintroduced town bus services on East Boulevard Road. Bus services have remained suspended for long on the road due to severe congestion behind Gandhi Market.
The Collector’s recent announcement on making the Kallikudi market fully functional has met with scepticism among residents.
In an election year, shifting the market will require strong political will as the traders have successfully lobbied with the government against the move last year.
“It is highly doubtful whether the administrators will succeed in shifting the traders to the new market. Alternatively, the authorities can concentrate on modernising the market and streamlining traffic around the market through effective policing and enforcement of traffic rules,” said R. Gopal, a city resident, who frequents the market.
Soon after Mr. Rajamani’s statement, M.K. Kamalakannan, president, Tiruchi Gandhi Market Vyaparigal Munnetra Sangam, appealed to him to allow retail traders to function at Gandhi Market as the livelihood of over 10,000 persons was at stake.