TIRUCHY: With Tiruchy district readying itself to face Assembly election in less than 20 days, the topic of Gandhi Market has once again come to the fore, after Tourism Minister Vellamandi N Natarajan promised traders that the market would not be relocated as long as he is alive.
The British-era market has been one of the highly discussed topics for a major part of the last decade after former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, during her term as Srirangam MLA, proposed to relocate it to Kallikudi to ease traffic congestion in the city.
Although an alternative market was built at a cost of over Rs 100 crore in Kallikudi in 2017, it never came into use as traders from Gandhi Market refused to shift, citing difficulties.
At this juncture, the statement made by Natarajan on Wednesday came as a disappointment to residents of the constituency, who were hoping that an amicable solution on relocation of the market would be arrived at and traffic woes in the city would finally end.
While campaigning at the market, an emotion-choked Natarajan told the traders that he still continues to live on the market premises and would never allow anyone to relocate it as long as he is alive.
Expressing regret over political leaders ignoring ground realities, Rengarajan, a resident of the constituency, said, "These leaders are mainly worried about losing votes of the traders. For decades, all of us have been suffering owing to traffic congestion and disturbance of the market. An alternative market has been built, tenders floated and agreements signed. What is stopping them?"
According to sources, the district administration had an opportunity to shift the market to Kallikudi during the lockdown, as the traders were operating from a temporary location. However, the traders had put pressure on local leaders and managed to return to the old premises.
Even as the general public express disapproval of Natarajan's announcement, traders have said that they would not budge to any pressure and were also persuading all political parties to add their demands as assurance in their election manifesto.
Ve Govindarajulu, president of Tiruchy Gandhi Market All Kinds of Wholesale and Retail Traders Association, said, "The market should remain in the same locality, and any new proposal to construct a new market in the future should accommodate everyone."