BBMP apathy fuels traders’ anger

04RUSSELL-MARKET01.jpg

Bengaluru: Tension gripped Russel market and its surroundings Friday morning as a couple of traders tried to set themselves on fire,  giving vent to their  frustration at the lack of water and power supply in the heritage building that they fear is up for demolition.
 The traders, who were at an association meeting held to draw up a strategy to bring pressure on Bescom, BBMP and the local MLA, Roshan Baig to restore their water and power supply, drenched themselves with kerosene and tried to set light to it, but were stopped in the nick of time by the police and other shopkeepers, according to general secretary of the Russell Market Traders’ Association, Mohammad Idrees Choudhury.
Russell Market has had  water and power supply since it was gutted in an accidental fire  on February 25 last year and the traders are paying from their own pockets to run generators to power it.
"The small time traders are the worst hit as they cannot afford the generators.  Some were so upset with Bescom and the MLA that they attempted suicide at the meeting," Mr. Choudhury said.
The traders' anger is  directed at  Mr. Roshan Baig, who they believe is conspiring with the BBMP to pull down the 85-year-old market and build a commercial complex in its place. "Mr. Baig doesn't care about our welfare. All of us have received notice from his office saying we must vacate the market to allow the construction of a commercial mall, although he is fully aware that we have invested Rs. 1. 5 crore from our pockets to renovate it after the fire," said one angry trader.
Others said the MLA had made no attempt to help restore their water and power supply either. "As there is no water we cannot use the only toilet in the market," they complained, adding that while former external affairs minister, S. M. Krishna had promised to give the heritage building a facelift after it was ravaged by the fire, Mr. Baig was doing just the opposite. Mr Javed Sait, who  attempted  suicide along with a couple of other traders, warned that if the government did not restore power supply to the market at least five or six more shopkeepers would commit suicide and it would have to take responsibility for their deaths.

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