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No fire clearance, food biz slackens

After municipal authorities decided to seal all the shops that have floors above the ground level, Def Col, as it is colloquially addressed, is fighting for survival.

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Restaurant in Vikapuri where fire broke out on February 24, 2017
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It's that time of the year when South Delhi's Defence Colony market is usually buzzing with party revellers extending their lazy lunches to drinks and dinner. But for more than a week now, the market has worn a deserted look. After municipal authorities decided to seal all the shops that have floors above the ground level, Def Col, as it is colloquially addressed, is fighting for survival.

The corporation crackdown came on Friday last week when officials shut down establishments, including Standard Chartered Bank, which had floors above the ground level, for converting a residential complex into a commercial activity hub. The civic body claimed that these shops did not pay conversion charges, and violated the law. While the authorities remain firm that eateries flout regulations, the owners call it "unnecessary harassment". Talking to DNA, Jagdish Gupta, secretary, Defence Colony Market Association(DCMA) said "Places like Rajouri Garden, Lajpat Nagar are operating commercially in residential areas. Our ancestors bought this land for commercial purpose and we have carried that forward. The civic body has one yardstick to judge everyone. So it sends notices to even those who are following all the rules," he alleged.

Rajinder Malik, president rued, "We told them that we follow all the guidelines including fire safety. But they would have none of it. The Supreme Court monitoring committee has listed other points on which commercial units have to be checked by the corporation that is doing what deems fit to them. We have been asked to deposit Rs 89,000 following which they will allow us to operate our businesses." The DCMA has now moved the Delhi High Court against last week's ban, which is up for hearing on January 3. Gupta shared that business has declined considerably; high rentals, the excessive license fee for liquor, have become matters of survival.

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