“Traders suffered during lockdown and now they are suffering due to pandemic fine and harassment. We have sent a petition to Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Monday seeking his intervention,” said AM Vikramaraja, president, Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangangalin Peramaippu.
According to him, State officials were also harassing traders insisting on immediate payment of property tax, commercial tax and licence fee. “Some of them have lost their livelihood due to the lockdown. How is it possible for them to pay taxes and fine,” Vikramaraja fumed.
Agreeing to it, social activist and shop owner V Sathiabalan pointed out how tea shops and eateries were mostly targeted while social distancing norms were not being followed in banks, Tasmac retail shops, government buses and temples. “I used to make Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,200 profit a day from my shop. But in the last one week, I have paid a fine of Rs 1,000. At times, we are also forced to bribe the field officials,” said the owner of a tea shop located on Perambur Barracks Road, showing the fine challans issued by the city Corporation. “For two consecutive days I was fined for the reasons best known to the civic officials. Some customers don’t wear masks, which is putting us in trouble,” he added.
When contacted, a senior government official said social distancing was not being followed at several tea shops, saloons and restaurants in Chennai, which leaves the officials with no other choice to regulate traders and customers but to slap cases and files. “Even then, about 25 per cent do not wear masks. The officials have no other choice other than penalising the violators so that the law abiding citizens are protected,” the official from the secretariat said. About the alleged harassment of traders, the official said he would direct municipal officials to look into the complaints.