Over 100 shopkeepers in the Sangam Theatre Complex at Majestic are a trouble lot since they have been forced out of the complex unceremoniously, after running flourishing businesses there for over 40 years.
This development came shortly after the lease for the complex was taken over by the new owners and the shopkeepers, who had been running travel businesses and trading in cloth, were instructed to move out immediately.
"The new owner Chandrappa is a big rowdy, who also owns a construction company. He gave us 25 per cent of the market rate for our shops and told us to vacate. We have no choice but to vacate out of fear," said a shopkeeper.
Shopkeepers said they were afraid to take legal action as they have heard of Chandrappa's previous cases of alleged strong-arm tactics. Instead, they printed out 100 letters, highlighting their woes and how they were cheated, and dropped them off at the Upparapet police station and the Lokayukta office.
Trust officials of the complex however rubbished the allegations and produced legal documents issued by the High Court about the lease transfer.
"We are no where involved in any such activity. The shopkeepers are just trying to defame us. The land has been passed down to us from our forefathers.
However, the court has approved the lease transfer and what the new owner does on the land is not our concern.
We get a ground rent of Rs 2,000, which has been set by the court and that is where our involvement ends," said Rekha, manager, Ekambara Sahujees Dharamshala Trust, Majestic.
As per the documents, the new owners have the lease until 2047 and have further sub-leased the land to another group.
The 37,000-sqft area was a lucrative spot for over 100 shopkeepers, who are now running from pillar to post to sort out the matter so they can earn their daily bread.
"The manager of the trust, which owns the land took about Rs 25 lakh from each shopkeeper in the complex about four years ago and signed a lease agreement for the next 40 years.
We were under the impression that we would be allowed to function without interference for the same lease period.
However, the lease was transferred and the new owner has forced us out," said a shopkeeper on condition of anonymity.
They have also alleged that the manager of the trust has personally gained around Rs 15-20 crore in the process of the lease transfer.
When this reporter contacted Chandrappa, he refused to comment.