The Panjim Municipal market is always abuzz with activity as people from every nook and cranny from the city, come to stock on vegetables, fish, flowers, fruits, and various other items. But the last two days have seen his colorful market in darkness due to the disconnection of power supply by the electricity department, owing to the nonpayment of dues to tune of rupees five crores.
The Corporation City of Panjim provided generators on Wednesday evening, which powered both the lights and fans giving relief to the small-time vendors in the market, who were slaving away in the sweltering heat as a result of the disconnection of power. The total amount due by the CCP to the electricity department is to the tune of Rs 5 crore.
The enraged vendors created a ruckus and refused to pay the Sopo fees to the CCP on Wednesday. This small time flower, fruit and vegetable vendors were suffering the most thanks to the irresponsible attitude of the CCP.
Sopo fees are a charge for the space occupied by these small-time vendors which are collected from them on a daily basis. Merchants who occupy shops, on the other hand, continue to get away without paying rent to the CCP, due to failure on the part of the CCP to sign agreements with the shopkeepers.
The small-time vendors were hit the most as they rely on the government power supply and were seen using newspapers to cool themselves and candles for light.
Some of the shopkeepers were unaffected by this as they use their own private electricity meters.
A vegetable vendor pointed out that the fans installed after elections were of no use as there was no power supply. He further added that the officials sat in their air-conditioned cabins while small-time vendors like him bore the brunt of the sweltering heat.
Another vegetable vendor said that till the power supply was restored they wouldn’t pay any Sopo fees. “We will protest if the power supply is not restored because we have been paying Sopo regularly,” he said.
Panaji Mayor Uday Madkaikar stated that the CCP would not force these small time vendors to pay the Sopo fees until the issue was resolved.
He further said that the CCP needed time to work out their financial standing before making a commitment to the electricity department.
Panjim MLA, Atanasio Monserrate on Wednesday requested the Chief Minister to waive off the interesting part of the arrears which amounts to Rs. 2.5 crores. Madkaikar added that the CM would find out if waiving of the interest was possible legally and then allow it.
The first phase of the complex was built in 2003 and since then, the dues have been mounting.
The market complex was built by the GSIDC, but later handed over to the CCP. The electricity bill was never transferred in the name of CCP and the bills continued to be issued in the name of GSIDC.
The CCP demanded a division of the bill and didn’t settle it which led to mounting arrears.
Meanwhile, the CCP has requested all vendors not to install any extra electrical fittings and instead use the existing electrical fixtures in the market. However vendors claimed that these fittings were old and rusty and didn’t provide the necessary light required by them.
On the other hand, shopkeepers are wondering as to how the remaining arrears will be paid off even after waiving off the interest, while some assumed that the CCP will probably pay the amount from the corporation fund which would be more on the lines of exploiting the taxpayers’ money.
Sources at the Herald, however, said that the power was restored to the Panjim Municipal market on Thursday, after two days of blackout providing much-needed relief to the small-time vendors.
It remains to be seen as to how the CCP intended to pay the arrears due to the electricity department which amounts to quite a considerable amount, even if the interest is waived off.