Kohima: Even as Kohima traders battle to recover the losses incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic induced lockdowns, it seems the Kohima Smart City’s recent move to declare a “no parking zone” along the city’s main town area, coupled with “increased taxation” by Naga political groups (NPGs) is crippling business in the state capital.

Peter Rutsa, convenor of the Traders Road Business Association Kohima (TRBAK), said the state government’s “enforcement” of the “No parking zone” along the stretch from TCP gate to Razhü point under the initiative of the Kohima Smart City Development Limited (KSCDL) to create a permanent walking plaza by removing the existing parking spaces has “disappointed” the local entrepreneurs and seasoned businessmen.

As a symbolic protest against the enforcement move which came to effect on Wednesday, the local traders re-parked their cars at the parking space at Old NST—the pilot location which was chosen by the Smart City Mission to convert car parking spaces to walking plazas. The KSCDL had earlier decided to implement pedestrian-friendly walkways in the heart of Kohima town in a phase-wise manner.

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With approximately 400 business establishments ranging from restaurants, hotels to clothing and electrical appliance stores spread along the particular stretch, the local traders shared that the specified time duration provided for parking from 8PM to 6AM is impractical for the traders to follow.   

Rutsa informed that the TRBAK was recently formed in the light of the state government’s recent move to voice out the grievances of the traders. Despite the traders paying off required taxes by the government and the municipality, he said that as stakeholders, the local traders have not been heard.  

While the business community is aware of the traffic congestion in Kohima, he said that there are expectations from the government to resolve the issue by creating parking spaces rather than removing the available parking areas.

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With the repeated lockdowns disrupting businesses, Rutsa said that the removal of parking spaces is adding to fewer business transactions as it witnesses a decline among consumers. He shared that the local traders are also challenged with the increasing street vending activities outside of the business stores, irregular power supply, and the lack of water supply as all traders in the town are dependent on local tankers for water supply.

Adding to the problem, he said that the already-existing taxation issue, which has seen a “huge increase” following the pandemic, is negatively impacting the local businesses. He added that rather than adding to the problems, the government should focus on resolving the existing problems.

Keneikhrielie Mepfhu-o, TRBAK treasurer said the “need of the hour is parking spaces” and not parks in the town area that too along the National Highway stretch.

He said that the temporary arrangement made by the government to divert car parking away is not feasible for both traders and buyers. Expressing dismay over the recent order passed by the state government, he said that before implementing such directives, a proper research and development team from the government should have surveyed the areas and the stakeholders to understand the practicality of enforcing the order.

Further, Keluongutuo Solo, co-convenor of TRBAK, added saying that the “experimenting” certain projects along the stretch at the expense of the local traders. He informed that the traders have been facing major losses in terms of crores of rupees cumulatively.

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The traders informed that the grievances faced by them have been conveyed to the concerned authority through the office of the Kohima Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI). The KSCDL, while having acknowledged the problems faced by the traders, proceeded with the implementation of the smart city projects.

Furthermore, the traders said that they are willing to cooperate with the government if the concerned authority can “convince” the local traders on how the ripple effect of open spaces by removing existing parking spaces can generate a conducive environment for the city’s economy as it claimed through the letter to the KCCI dated August 24.

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