Lucknow: The Kanpur police have registered a criminal case against 22 traders for putting up hoardings and posters comparing Prime Minister Narendra Modi with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to highlight the issue of a deluge of small coins affecting their businesses, an official said on Friday.
They also arrested Praveen Kumar, a resident of Sharda Nagar here, on Thursday for installing these hoardings. His arrest was made public only on Friday. Sub-inspector Rajesh Awasthi filed the FIR under section 32 (3) of UP Special Powers Act, section 153A and section 505 of IPC.
Superintendent of police (south) Ashok Verma confirmed Kumar’s arrest and said others would be nabbed soon.
A trader leader said they have decided not to celebrate Diwali after the case was registered against them.
The hoardings have a photograph of Kim Jong-un on one side declaring he will rest only after he has destroyed the world and that of Modi on other the side saying, “I will bring an end to businesses”. In the hoardings, the traders also asked Modi to resolve the small coins issue.
The posters surfaced on Wednesday morning at many places throughout the city before the state executive of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was to hold a meeting.
The traders commissioned these posters after banks in the city refused to take deposits in coins, stating the lack of chests to keep them. According to the traders, many in the wholesale grocery business are left with coins worth about Rs 10 to 15 lakh each, while the retailers, on an average, have a stock of coins worth Rs 6-7 lakh each.
Sources said there are about Rs 200 crore in coins currently in circulation in Kanpur.
The situation has forced traders to pay salaries to their employees in coins, who in turn are unable to use the money as banks and shopkeepers are not accepting them. Many say they will be forced to shut their businesses if the problem is not resolved.
Raju Khanna, a traders’ association leader, said they wanted to bring the issue to chief minister Yogi Aditynath’s notice after their meetings with officials of various banks and the district administration failed to resolve their problem.
He said the hoardings and posters were the last resort to draw the attention of the state and central governments.
“We all are Modi supporters. If the change (coins) is ruining us and our businesses what option did we have,” Khanna, one of those named in the case, added.
His body represents small traders whose products are worth below Rs 10 each and are paid for mostly in coins.
“Traders are exchanging coins at 25% of their value under the batta system to get currency notes to keep their businesses afloat. Now, it is hurting us badly,” he said.
Gopal Sardana, president of Kirana Vyapar Mandal, said traders in the city have decided not to celebrate Diwali. They have been agitating on the coins’ issue for about seven months, he said.
“We are in talks with other bodies and planning a major agitation. It will include dumping coins en masse at Gandhi statue in Phool Bagh,” he said.
“We believe this is being done to finish us and our small-time businesses. We demand that the government should give us an alternative about what to do with the coins,” he said.
On its part, BJP’s Kanpur president Surendra Maithani said the ruling party is a responsible party and committed to all sections of the society.
“… If they (traders) had a problem they should have gone to their public representatives. Had they met them, the party would have fought for them and got their problem resolved. But, certain vested interest chose to attack the PM in the worst possible way to make space in traders’ politics,” Maithani said.