Sealing of unauthorised commercial establishments in the capital was resumed on Wednesday by civic body MCD, following a Supreme Court directive with a South Delhi shopping complex becoming the first target of the drive amidst a thick security blanket.
Large shops in South Extension, Lajpat Nagar and on the Ring Road were among the first ones to be sealed. CTC Plaza, one of the city's biggest malls, was also sealed on Wednesday morning.
"They have sealed my house along with another building that belonged to us. There was no commercial activity of any nature," said Sanghi, a resident of Kilokari area.
I S Gandhi, a 75-year-old resident of Greater Kailash, seemed to have made his peace with the situation - " I removed most of my belongings from my shop, which I had been running for the last 35 years."
His neighbour, however, was furious - "Is this justice? They take taxes from us and now after 50 years have woken up to the reality that we are running our shops in an unauthorised manner."
The anger of the shopkeepers was evident. They felt let down by leaders who refused to answer phone calls on their mobile phones, fearing arrest by the Delhi police.
"What worked for us is the fact that monitoring committee decided not to allow the television vans anywhere near the places where sealing was going on," a junior police officer said in a conversation with this correspondent.
The sealing was, by all accounts, peaceful on Wednesday and several hundred shops were sealed in a single day, setting a record of sorts.
The group of ministers appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to deal with the sealing issue in Delhi will report to the Union Cabinet on the latest situation on Thursday.
According to a senior official of the Home Ministry, the government will come offer a solution before the deadline of January 31,2007 set by the Supreme Court.
Though there were no major protests, traders alleged that they were not given notice in advance about sealing and could not remove goods from their shops.
"We knew that sealing is going to take place but had no idea it will start from our shop. We were not given time to remove the goods and they have sealed the shops," M S Gandhi, President of Kilokri Traders Welfare Association, whose shop was also sealed, said.
Large number of security personnel including contingents of paramilitary Rapid Action Force, Central Reserve Paramilitary Force and Border Security Force and Delhi police were deployed to prevent any untoward incident.
Senior police officials including Deputy Commissioner of Police (South Delhi) Anil Shukla are overseeing the action.
The resumption of the drive, which was halted after the violence during the September 20 traders' bandh, came after the monitoring committee's direction to the MCD.
Unlike in the past, this time it was not the MCD but the committee which has decided on when and where to carry out the operations.
As part of protests against the sealing drive, the capital had witnessed two separate bandhs called by the agitating traders leading to shutting down of several markets.
Meanwhile, the occupants of a property sealed on Ring Road broke the seal shortly after the MCD teams left the area, claiming that the premises was being used for residential purposes only.
Four properties belonging to one Ankur Sanghi in Kilokari area along Ring Road, including the popular gym Pulse Impulse, were sealed.
However, the occupants of one of the buildings broke the seal put by the MCD on the main gate of one of the properties, claiming that for the last 40 years it has been used for residential purposes only.
Trade leader Praveen Khandelwal was taken into preventive custody from a South Delhi area as the drive resumed. He was later granted bail. So were three others who had been arrested for leading the protest and demonstration against the sealing drive in the capital.
Khandelwal, who is general secretary of the Confederation of All India Traders, was taken into custody from Chittaranjan Park, along with a few other traders, police said.
The CAIT has been at the forefront of the traders' protest against the sealing drive in the capital.
In an immediate political impact of the resumption of the sealing drive, 17 ruling Congress councillors in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi resigned, protesting against the resumption of the sealing drive.
Out of them, 13 were members in the MCD's standing committee.
Earlier, four party councillors had tendered resignations to their party leader and Leader of the House Jitender Kochar protesting the action against 44,000 traders who had submitted affidavits to the Supreme Court assuring voluntary closure of their commercial establishments running in residential areas.
The standing committee members who resigned included Sanjay Puri, Mukesh Goel, Mariam Kaur, Brij Mohan Sharma, Satbir Sharma and Jamil Ahmed Mulla. The councillors who sent their resignation to Kochar were Ramesh Pandit, Prem Kumar, Deepika Khullar and Anil Kumar Vashisht.
With PTI inputs