The Sad Degeneration of Sector 17

People washing clothes in the plaza fountain, ‘phari-walas’ selling cheap stuff ranging from toys, posters, sunglasses to household wares and even clothes- no, that’s not all. Imagine all this besides hundreds of shops, of top national and international brands, and also some government and private offices. Confused whether such two distinct views can occur at the same place. Unfortunately yes, this can be witnessed at The City Beautiful Plaza. On my recent visit here, I was shocked to see this ‘Star Sector’ of Chandigarh completely hijacked by street vendors. Once a pride of the city for its clean and walkable plaza, Sector 17 has now become a home to these vendors.

The large open space, proudly named as The Plaza, was a delight with respect to its musical fountain, laser show and celebrity concerts. It has now been occupied by vendors who squat there, from noon to evenings. Despite policemen on duty at the Sector 17 Plaza and all around, the rules are being violated with impunity. The concerned officials continue to look the other way. The Business Promotion Council of Sector 17 have been constantly highlighting the menace of the vendors. Shoppers too, feel the same.

“Things have really gone from bad to worse in Sector 17. The street vendors have changed the character of the place. This place was always so unique for Chandigarh. It is shameful that the authorities are more concerned about maintaining the areas and houses where VIPs live while the biggest commercial hub of the city has been allowed to become a mess,” Jatinder Sharma, says a businessman and regular visitor to Sector 17.

In recent years, the Sector 17 shopping area has lost substantial clientele to a couple of malls that have opened in the city. “The Sector 17 market used to be visited not only by city residents but also people from the adjoining towns of Panchkula and Mohali. People from Haryana and Himachal Pradesh also used to come in big numbers to shop here,” Anuradha, a home-maker in Chandigarh, pointed out.

“Business worth several million is transacted in this sector, which is one of the biggest commercial hubs of the region, daily. The local administration should pay more attention to it (Sector 17) and help it regain its lost glory,” Manu Goyal, an entrepreneur, said.

The sector badly needs rejuvenation — but who will bell the cat?