Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Cuttack, Mar 9:
Malgodam (Malgodown), among Odisha’s biggest business hubs and an integral part of the Millennium City, could soon become a thing of the past, if the Railway has its way.
The sprawling trade centre spread over 25 acres has been served notice by the East Coast Railway (ECoR) to vacate the area by March 31 to facilitate the expansion of the infrastructure at the Cuttack raliway station.
Panicky traders fear that it could be the end of the road for many of them if they are forced to relocate.
As per reports, shops in the Malgodown area, considered to be the lifeline of traders from many parts of the state, have encroached upon 80 percent of Railways land and 20 percent of Ravenshaw University premises. Though their 99-year lease expired in 1985-86, the traders were allowed to continue with their businesses in the larger interest of the people.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, during his stint as Railway minister, had given the go-ahead to the eviction to bring the encroached land back into the possession of Railways, but the order could not be acrried out.
Railway authorities have justified the move to serve the evcition notice saying it has become necessary in view of the ongoing railway expansion work.
With time slipping away, the traders are spending sleepless nights as they have not been offered any alternative options. The traders’ association has called upon the government to identify an alternative location with land or shops to make the transition less painful for them.
At least 5, 000 labourers, including trolley rickshaw pullers and truckers depend on the wholesale hub that houses over 200 shops and commercial establishments.
The association members had held talks with the Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) of the Khurda Road division to resolve the issue, but to no avail.
Besides, they have also approached Union Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan seeking his intervention.
After placing their requests before the concerned authorities to look into their demands, the traders’ association is now contemplating calling for a bandh if its demands are not met, sources said.
Meanwhile, the traders are reluctant to transact with the retailers in view of the uncertainty over the fate of the godown, the retailers alleged.
On the other hand, the traders have alleged that the small retailers are not clearing the credit sales, taking advantage of the situation.
The uncertainty over the shifting of the Malgodown area is expected to have its impact on the demand-supply of commodities. In addition to this, it could promote hoarding and black marketing of essential goods thereby giving an upward push to the prices of goods, though temporarily, experts predicted.