THE Gawalmandi Food Street is no more an attraction for the Lahorites and other visitors, including foreigners, for reasons best know to the City District Government, Lahore, which removed gates of the street and abstained the shopkeepers from setting tables and chairs in the open.
The majority of the food streetâ€™s shopkeepers are terming the orders a move of the Punjab rulers to take revenge from their political rivals who have been running the affairs of the food street for the past eight years.
Following the recent directions of the Lahore DCO, the shopkeepers are not allowed to set their tables and chairs in the street as they used to do in the past while the gates of the street, which were closed off for traffic after evening, have been removed and traffic flow is allowed on the road.
For the last several days, those who did not know that the food street had literary finished, have been facing serious disappointment after reaching the area. Now only the food outlets having enough seating capacity in their shops are running while the rest of shops are closed or out of business.
Shopkeepers said the CDGL had adopted a â€˜tactical wayâ€™ to close down the food street as some two weeks back the road of food street was dug for laying a sewer pipeline by the Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa). The contractor, after digging the road, abandoned the work while the encroachment removing staff of the CDGL removed gates and makeshift counters of the shopkeepers.
Talking to The News, Khawaja Shakeel, the chairman of the Gawalmandi Food Street Committee, said over 100 food outlets were situated in the food street, offering a variety of food, besides ensuring a very clean and family-oriented environment to the visitors. He said about 2,000 people, including waiters and chefs, associated with the shops, were now jobless and their families were starving.
â€œMost of the shopkeepers are living in upper portions of their shops in the food street and anyone can visit them and see what has happened to them,â€ he said, adding the Lahore DCO called him some days back and asked him to open the gates. He said the DCO told him that CDGL received several complaints from local residents that they were facing severe problems to reach their homes due to the closed gates.
Khawaja Shakeel claimed that the contractor of Wasa, who dug the street to lay sewer pipes, informed him that â€˜the higher authoritiesâ€™ had directed him to carry out the work at a snailâ€™s pace. He said he had no enmity with anyone and he, his family and the people associated with the food street were also citizens of the country and the rulers should take care of them as well despite their political affiliations.
â€œClosing off the food street is not just closure of some 100 shops but it amounts to ruining the image of Pakistan abroad,â€ he said, adding that this can be gauged from the comments of a number of ambassadors and foreign dignitaries who visited the food street and declared it a true face of the Pakistani culture.
If traffic congestion was the issue, then why the government was not closing down the shops at the Hall Road, Beadon Road, Rang Mehal, Kashmiri Bazaar, Suha Bazaar and many such places, said Ashraf, a shopkeeper in the food street. He said the CDGL demolished his shop without any intimation.
On the other hand, several residents of Gawalmandi said that opening of the food street for traffic was their long standing demand because they had to travel a lot to reach the Mayo Hospital in case of an emergency.
Imtiaz, a local, said his father was an asthma patient and he had to take him to the hospital often. He said opening of the road would save extra travel and time.
When contacted, Wasa Managing Director Dr Javed Iqbal strongly denied the allegations that he or any of the Wasa authorities had directed the contractor to lay down the pipe at the food street at a snailâ€™s pace. When asked why the contractor was not completing the work, he said he would check the status of the work.
The News tried to contact the Lahore Division commissioner as well as District Coordination Officer, Lahore, to get the official version but none of the two attended the calls. Repeated messages were left for the DCO through his phone operator but he did not bother to reply back.
Source: The News