New Delhi, Mar 16 (PTI) Several traders in Chandni Chowk have got notices to pay conversion charges by the MCD, despite the Aam Aam Party's promise of doing away with the charge in the run up the polls for the civic body.
BJP, which had been at the helm of for 15 years before AAP, condemned the move, alleging that the civic body is issuing notices to shops which were already commercial.
The traders have claimed that hundreds of shops on several main roads of Chandni Chowk and its bylane 'katras' have received such notices in the last three weeks.
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi has however said that this is a regular exercise and the shop owners will have to pay conversion charges as per the rules.
AAP had locked horns with the BJP when it ran MCD over the issue of conversion charges and promised its revocation if it came to power in the municipal body. Scrapping conversion charges was also part of the AAP's "10 guarantees" for the municipal election.
Conversion charges are to be paid by property owners if the status of the area in which their property is located changes from residential to commercial.
Meanwhile, traders termed the move "unjustified" and illegal, arguing that the market has been commercial for ages.
In one of the notices dated March 1, the MCD asked the property owner to pay conversion, parking, and other applicable charges, with a threat to seal the premises if they were not paid.
BJP condemned the move as harassment of traders of one of the oldest markets of Delhi.
"BJP leaders have said that for the last four decades, Chandni Chowk is considered a part of the Special Zone and that's why no punitive action has ever been taken on the traders regarding the conversion charge here but today the sudden warning of punitive action is harassment of the traders," Delhi BJP Spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor and former councillors Suman Kumar Gupta and Ravi Kaptan said in a statement.
The party asked the MCD to suspend all punitive action for three months, and make the property tax records before 1962, which is the basis for depositing the conversion charge, especially on the main roads, publicly available online.
It also alleged that the traders are forced to bribe officials to obtain copies of records.
Sanjay Bhargava, president of Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal, said: "The conversion charge is applicable when a residential area has been converted into a commercial one. The Master Plan 2021 clearly states that the markets which have existed before 1962, such as Chandni Chowk Market, Sadar Bazaar, Khari Baoli – all these markets are mentioned in the masterplan, these are called commercial markets." "There is no point in charging conversion fees in a Mughal-era market, which is already a commercial market. It is harassment of traders and it is illegal," he added.
A senior MCD official insisted that the traders will have to pay the charges as per the rules.
"It is a normal and regular practice. There is no point in politicising it. We have issued notices to traders as per the rules and they need to pay charges," the official said. PTI VA VN VN