Geyzing: Of all the different kind of business that people run, perhaps a cybercafé is one business that cannot be carried out in the open. Firstly, it’s the safety of the equipment, followed by electricity supply to run the computers and lastly, Sikkim is often marred by rain to carry out such business out in the open.

In Geyzing town, Santosh Gautam, a local entrepreneur, ran his cybercafé in an open market place of Geyzing Bazar on April 8. But why? You may ask. Santosh Gautam is carrying a protest against subletting of trade license, wherein the license name is with a different person for different business purpose but the same is awarded to others, often to non-locals, which led him to protest.

Protests in Sikkim

Speaking with EastMojo over the phone, Santosh Gautam alleged, “Despite being a local entrepreneur having legal trade licence, I have failed to find an accommodation in the Bazar area to run my business. I am willing to pay the amount of contract payment sought by the concerned party. I was running a cybercafé from a rented room of a house located at Geyzing Bazar, but I was served a legal notice to vacate the room as the contract had ceased since February.”

Gautam complained, “Whenever I settled deals for availing room to run my cybercafé with some persons having vacant rooms in and around Geyzing Bazar, another party snatches my deal away by the assurance of paying twice the amount that I had assured. Some people are conspiring to keep me out of the trade and business affairs of the town, but as a local entrepreneur, I will not succumb to any conspiracy and threat when many people, having no proper documents, are being allowed to run their business in the town”.

Gautam also serves as the general secretary of All Sikkim Business Holders Association (ASBHA). He has been vocal about the end of sublet-trade licence practices in Geyzing town and the cancellation of trade licences issued without valid documentation in the state.

Also read: Watch: All-out brawl between police & citizens in Sikkim on Holi

A recently-formed traders’ association ‘Byapari Jagaran Manch’ is the second trader faction that advocates the availability of provision for trade licence subletting, considering they are part of the state’s old business community. The two traders’ associations have, for a long time, been in dispute and have resorted to allegation and counter-allegations over their stance on the issues about the traders.

Gautam was asked if he was being victimised for being vocal against the trade licence subletting issue and others. “I am being victimised for coming openly in favour of the local traders and my stand on illegal way trade licence subletting and others illegal trade affairs. I agree that I am being victimised for being vocal about the issue. They failed to comprehend that suppression of the voice of youth would make way for more dissenting voices.”

He further informed that he would file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the High Court of Sikkim regarding the sublet trade licence issue and other malpractices in trade and commerce affairs of the state. He has so far filed such cases against more than 20 such businesses in Geyzing.

Municipal Executive Officer Bhumika Pradhan Bonpo in Geyzing informed, “We are aware of the hardship faced by the likes of Santosh Gautam. Most locals don’t have a chance to own their shops or even get sublets as practised in the state. We were able to aid him (Gautam) yesterday by finding him a place for his shop. In Geyzing, we have an IMDST building that houses many small-scale businesses. But the rents are as low as Rs 1,100 and have not been paid in Geyzing for years. In some cases, the arrears are as high as Rs 2 lakh, which most shop owners refused to pay. They have been awarded the sublet without much verification in the past. There are individuals in the fray, who despite not having proper documentation, own a shop.”

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