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Not 'fair'! Protest puts expo on hold

Indian International Consumer Fair, which was to continue at MMRDA ground till Jan 3, is now in limbo

Anna Hazare's fast campaign at MMRDA ground may or may not change the outlook on the Lokpal bill, but it has certainly skewed the prospects of an ongoing consumer exhibition at MMRDA ground, in spitting distance of the activist's agitation.



Yesterday morning, the organisers of Indian International Consumer Fair (IICF) were surprised when they saw that the entry points to the exhibition venue were being barricaded to secure Anna and company. The organisers had to put up a board informing people that they were closing down their exhibition for three days.

The organisers hoped till late afternoon that the MMRDA and the police would allow them to get the show going but it didn't happen.

The IICF fair started on December 22 and was scheduled to go till January 3. The abrupt closing down of the venue has resulted in a loss for the organisers. "It is not just the financial loss. The momentum has been broken. It took time for word-of-mouth publicity to build up and the interruption may result in potential buyers staying away altogether," one of the organisers said.

Kept hanging
Umesh Chandra Pandey, director of M/s News Exhibits and Entertainment, the organsiers of the exhibition, said, "The entire scheduling has been upset. Had we been intimated even last evening, we could have managed to stop the newspaper advertisements, which ask the public to get the paper cutting for free entry. We could have informed our clients/public about the closure. Over 2,000 people visit the exhibition daily and during weekends the number crosses 3,500."

The IICF organisers have rented around 50,000 sq ft area of the ground from MMRDA for a 13-day exhibition at a rate of Rs 10.90 per sq ft. Also 25 per cent of the ground was reserved for parking purposes. The booking was done almost a year ago.

Around 110 stalls, each about 100 to 200 sq ft, were sublet for a price ranging from Rs 25,000 to Rs 40,000 to noted local and international brands for setting up their stalls of electronics goods, gadgets, home appliances, toys etc. 

'Unforeseen'
The organiser and his team were spotted making frantic calls to their clients informing them about the sudden temporary closure of the exhibition. Letters were written to the fire brigade office in Marol, informing the divisional fire officer not to send the fire engine to the venue for three days due to the closure.  "In my 15 years of organising such exhibitions and third at MMRDA ground, this is the first time we have faced such a situation. Apart from monetary loss, the time and travel plans including visa for our international clients will be upset," said Pandey.

Senior police officials said that since they had anticipated a huge turnout for Anna's agitation and keeping in mind the possible threat to Anna and team, security was intensified in and around the ground.

"We hope that the MMRDA and the police allow us an extension of three days' period to cover up the closure period," said another member from the organising team.

Copspeak
Meanwhile, Deputy Metropolitan Commissioner Anil Wankhede said, "Security is of prime concern and if the police feel there is a need for closing the entry point to the exhibition venue, we would go by the police requirement."

Asked about the possibility of extending the exhibition by three days, Wankhede said, "We have already got a booking for the same ground. It will be difficult to give any extension of time as the scheduled party wants the ground early in January for an expo."

Deputy  Commissioner of Police Satyanarayan Chaudhary  said, "We have not put any barricades on the road leading to the exhibition."

Voices
I came only to attend the exhibition. I usually come every year as I get a platform to go through the latest product launches in electronic goods. Also, discounts make shopping more fun. But I am disappointed. I have to return without getting a chance to look at the new launches.
� Kajol Thakkar (35),
housewife, Kandivli

The organsiers should have at least informed us in advance. I wasted my entire day coming to the venue.
- Harsha Dave (54),
housewife, Kandivli

I saw the advertisements and decided to visit the exhibition but the police stopped me outside, saying they have closed the venue. It is not fair.  
- Renuka Kalra, Pali Hill

Lokpal bill passed
Last night, the government moved a step forward to create an all-powerful anti-graft ombudsman after the Lok Sabha passed the Lokpal bill. The Lok Sabha also  passed a bill giving constitutional status to the Lokpal. The bills now need a nod from the Rajya Sabha before these are enacted as a law.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said the bill was not "strong" and was brought by the government under pressure from Anna Hazare.

The 43 members of the SP and BSP staged a walkout ahead of the Lokpal vote.

"We are opposed to the bill. It is not a strong bill. The government has brought it in haste. They were also under pressure because of Anna," Mulayam Singh told reporters outside parliament.

The Samajwadi Party chief also said that they also staged the walkout, as they did not want to vote with the BJP. The MPs of the two parties -- who are arch rivals in Uttar Pradesh, which will see polls to the assembly in February -- claimed that the government had not listened to their suggestions on the bill that envisages setting up of an all-powerful anti-graft ombudsman. However, their non-participation in the vote eased the government worries because if they had voted against, passage of the bill could have been difficult.

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