It’s not just Bandra residents who are blaming the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for the hawker menace at the annual Bandra Fair in September. Members of the church, for whom the eight-day fair represents the Feast of Mother Mary, also find hawkers a hindrance to pilgrims visiting Mount Mary Church.
Three days ago, 250 Bandra residents filed a petition with the Bombay High Court demanding answers from the BMC about the hawker menace at the fair, many of whom are illegal. “The fair and hawking have nothing to do with the religious feast. Everything that goes on outside the church is a nuisance,” said Father Larry Pereira, a church historian and former parish priest at Bandra’s Mount Carmel Church.
Fr Larry referred in particular to the candle stalls along the road leading to the church, which protrude into the walking space of devotees and inconvenience them. “We always discourage candles in church, but stall owners spend up to a lakh for each stall, and protest that their business would be affected if we ask them to move out,” he said. Fr Larry added that the priests were a voice in the wilderness, and were helpless before the BMC.
A petitioner from St. John Baptist’s Road who wished to remain anonymous, said, “The fair has become a mela today. For 10 days during the fair, my road is choked with hawkers who cook, live and defecate on our pavement. As tax paying citizens, why should our health and safety be compromised?”
The petition also seeks answers from the traffic department, saying the roads around the church become completely inaccessible to vehicles. According to norms, only one side of the road is supposed to be given to hawkers, but all of it is taken up. “Despite living in the area we cannot take our vehicles out, and have to walk half a kilometre for conveyance,” the petitioner said.
Pooja Thorat, advocate for the petitioners, said the BMC, traffic division, fire department, the assistant commissioner of police and BEST are to file answers to the petition before the hearing on September 1.