A new decision by the administration of Lok Virsa, a museum run by the National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage and a subsidiary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, has left some 100 families dreading the loss of their livelihood.
Per verdict, the rental fee of 80 shops spread across the National Heritage Museum, Open Air Theatre and Craft Bazaar, has been dramatically increased by over 800 percent. Under this new agreement, shopkeepers will now be required to pay a monthly sum of Rs80,000 in rent, instead of the previously set amount of Rs10,000.
According to sources privy to the development, shopkeepers were recently issued a notice from the Lok Virsa administration announcing termination of the previous agreement, asking them to pay future rents as per the latest contract.
Fifteen years ago, some 20 artisans, craftsmen and painters had set up shop on Garden Road near the Shakarpariyan area, and rented out a few shops under a government agreement to sell their goods.
Later, the number of these shops was increased. In this regard, the Capital Development Authority told the the Lok Virsa Administration that it is not allowed to build concrete shops on government land.
Thus, in obedience to this order, painters, craftsmen and artisans had built their makeshift shops with iron sheets and iron pipes instead. A shop back then costed Rs24,000 but Rs30,000 was collected from each of the artisans while Rs8,000 in rent was fixed to settle the bazaar.
Following the termination of the agreement in 2013, the possession of the shops was taken over by the Lok Virsa administration and the rent was increased to Rs10,000 without any notice.
Now, however, the management of the Lok Virsa Museum has suddenly surged the rent to Rs80,000, in the event of non-payment of which the contract with existing shopkeeper will be terminated and new contracts with new shopkeepers will be signed. Furthermore, the notice also mentioned strict legal action against noncomplying shopkeepers.
Speaking to The Express Tribune in this regard, affected shopkeepers say that they have been earning halal income and uplifting the country’s image for the last many years with the Lok Virsa’s help. “But now they have threatened our livelihood in a time when many of us are already going through the most strenuous times due to the coronavirus pandemic,” they added.
Another shopkeeper, speaking on conditions of anonymity, said that the government will have to reconsider this decision. “If the management of Lok Virsa does not reduce the rent, a sit-in will be organised outside Bani Gala, Parliament House and the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the government will have to then take us seriously, considering that its own rise to power was backed by sit-ins,” he asserted.
The Lok Virsa management on the other hand, when reached out to for their comments on the matter, maintained that they are open to finding a solution to the issue in collaboration with the shopkeepers. “They [shopkeepers] bring us huge sums of revenue every year and we are open to discussing and hopefully resolving all issues and grievances stemming from the latest notice,” a Lok Virsa source informed The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2021.