TIRUCHY: An ongoing tussle between two political heavyweights may cost the Tiruchy city of a Smart City project, with the possibility of converting Gandhi market into a shopping complex looking very grim. Following the selection of Tiruchy city under the Smart Cities Mission in 2017, the corporation proposed a project to convert the British-era Gandhi market into a modern shopping complex. The major wholesale market has over 460 licensed vegetable traders. However, this much anticipated project is almost on the verge of being dropped by the civic body as the officials are unable to proceed further due to a proxy political tussle brewing.
There are allegations that some of the traders, who oppose shifting of the Gandhi market, are backed by Tourism Minister Vellamandi N Natarajan who has been running business near the Gandhi market for a long time. Meanwhile, another group reportedly supported by former agriculture minister Ku Pa Krishnan demand shifting of traders to Kallikudi market, stating that it was built for the very purpose at a cost of over Rs 100 crore keeping in mind traders' benefit. Ku Pa Krishnan, through his NGO Manitha Valar Sangam, had moved the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court seeking interim injunction to close the Gandhi market till October 13. Traders called the move a personal stunt for appraisal of real-estate lands, which they alleged, he owned around the Kallikudi market.
A corporation official said, "The continuous indirect confrontation between the two parties has changed the notion from a matter of redevelopment to a matter of political strength. Both of them are trying to challenge each other by making their competitor strategies ineffective. But, they fail to realise that it is the smart-city scheme that is facing the axe."
Markets to function individually?
The State government had earlier in 2014 decided to shift the market before it was taken up under Smart City project to decongest the city traffic. And later in 2017, was proposed the plan to convert the premises into a shopping complex. The political pressure has now forced the district administration to consider the two markets as standalone markets. "We might drop the initial idea and consider function of both the markets. The situation may change only if the court intervenes," said a senior official from the district administration.
Officials added that with the ongoing tussle and the deadline to the Smart city project proposal nearing end, the project might be dropped. A senior official said, "Almost three years have passed since the proposal was made for the first time. With July 2022 being the deadline for redevelopment plans and traders showing resistance to shift, the plan might be dropped."