Srinagar: The Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) conducted a demolition drive on Monday at old bus stand Batamaloo.
Shopkeepers at the site were taken by surprise as some of their shops were razed to ground “without any prior notice or warning.”
“We don't understand why our shops were demolished; we have proper documents and pay bills regularly,” said one of the affected shopkeepers. Another shopkeeper said, “We had no idea about demolition today. There was no communication or warning given to us, and now our businesses are in jeopardy.”
The shopkeepers claimed that they had obtained permission from the government to operate their shops at the location.
"We have been here for the past 70 years, and now some people seem to be behind this demolition. We pay fees to SDA, and yet our businesses were subjected to this action," added one of the shopkeepers.
They said that the old bus stand houses around 400 shops, all of which are facing uncertainty and potential losses due to the demolition.
The shopkeepers have asked senior officers to intervene in the matter.
However, Vice Chairman of Srinagar Development Authority, Haris Ahmad Handoo, told Greater Kashmir that the demolition was carried out to remove some temporary sheds that were found to have encroached upon government land at the old bus stand.
He said that the cleared land would be utilised for an upcoming developmental project under the Smart City initiative.
"We possess over a hundred kanals of government land in the old bus stand area of Batamaloo. This land is slated for an essential developmental project as part of the Smart City Plan. Prior to the demolition drive, we had issued notices to the vendors regarding the retrieval of the land. This step was necessary to proceed with the planned Smart City Project," Handoo said.
He said vendors at Batamaloo area were temporarily relocated to the old bus stand on government land, keeping in mind the developmental project's requirements.
He said that the demolition drive specifically targeted temporary sheds that were infringing upon government land.
“We carried out the demolition with caution, ensuring that only structures that were illegally occupying government land were removed. Shops with proper documentation were not demolished," Handoo said.