Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, November 10
The Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association is believed to be earning no less than Rs 20 lakh every month by renting out shops, kiosks and allowing vendors to operate from public land abutting the parking area in the precincts of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. This is in addition to the money it is making by carving out a parking lot on public land adjoining the Rock Garden and opposite the High Court museum.
Rough estimates suggest between 1,500 and 2,000 cars are daily parked in the lot on the public land on working days from Monday to Friday and Rs 30 is charged for each vehicle. The total comes out to be between Rs 45,000 and Rs 60,000 daily. The parking fee, otherwise also, is nothing but exorbitant, considering the fact that the Municipal Corporation is charging Rs 10 from motorists in the lots managed by it.
The Bar Association has its own justification. A senior member says the Bar is perpetually short of revenue and is monthly spending approximately Rs 38 lakh on the salaries of its staff. It also has to provide infrastructure and undertake welfare activities. “Even after everything, the Bar is still in deficit,” he says.
Available information suggests a couple of shops were allowed to operate in the High Court area at the time of its inception for providing stationery and other essential services. However, over the years, shops, stalls and booths kept cropping up on public land.
Initially, books and stationery shops were added, followed by photostat booths, juice bars, coffee stalls, canteens, more canteens, optician and chemist shops. Bar sources say in all, the number of shops and vendors over a period of time has increased to about 100. No less than 50 kiosks and booths can be counted in the vicinity of the parking with concentration around gate number four and five.
However, the silence of the UT authorities on the issue is perplexing. It is allowing the vendors to operate from the High Court grounds even though a Division Bench less than a month ago ruled that Sectors 1 to 6 were no-vending zones. So far, there are no indications of initiation of any action against the vendors as they continue to operate virtually under the nose of the High Court even after it passed the orders on removal of unregistered vendors.
As of now, vendors selling stuff right from clothes, bags and purses, locks and hammers, digestive powders and tablets, mobile accessories, imported electronic goods, wooden decoration pieces and even dry fruits are dotting the lanes leading to the High Court. Besides, every nook and corner has a tea vendor and other foodstuff seller.
The Municipal Corporation conveniently passes on the buck to the Administration. A senior MC official says the vendors are unregistered with it and the responsibility of initiating action against them falls on the Administration as it is their land.
The Administration, on the other hand, says the MC is required to proceed against the vendors in the High Court just as they are doing in the area around the lake and the Rock Garden. In any case, action against the unregistered vendors is being initiated under the “Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Municipal Corporation Chandigarh Bylaws-2018”. It is not restricted to MC land only. “Until a few years ago, it was MC initiating action of removing the vendors from the High Court area,” says a senior officer in the UT Administration.
(With inputs from RK Upadhyay & Sandeep Rana)
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