The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has repeatedly failed to plan infrastructure that will solve the problem of hawkers and pedestrians jostling for space in the city streets. While experts have suggested they be rehabilitated in hawker plazas and municipal markets, the BMC has failed to woo hawkers to these spaces.
The BMC has 92 markets in the city. Of these, 14 are under redevelopment, and four have been redeveloped already, and are yet to be handed over to the BMC. The Pali market at Bandra (West), for instance, was demolished for redevelopment 10 years ago, but the construction was never completed. Today, hawkers can be seen dotting the streets surrounding the proposed market place. The Khar market too was to be redeveloped and could have been used to rehabilitate hawkers, but thanks to a delay, erstwhile shopkeepers have re-occupied their spots.
The BMC, under the DCR, 1991, was expected to receive 7 lakh sq-ft space developed as markets. Out of this, around 2.5 lakh sq-ft space has been handed over to the BMC, but all of it is lying vacant. One such market on Grant Road was handed over to the BMC 16 years ago, but has never been used.
In 2002, the BMC, in collaboration with hawkers, classified around 183 plots in the city as potential hawking plazas, but nothing was does to develop the plots and use them to accommodate hawkers. The administration has also failed to shift hawkers from crowded areas with high footfall to other areas.
Madhu Poplai, an activist based in Bandra, said, “Markets could have been a ready solution for the BMC, to accommodate hawkers. But instead of using them, the BMC has allowed the hawkers to occupy the streets. The proposed market on Pali Hill has not been constructed in the past 10 years. With proper planning, it could have accommodated the hawkers in the area. Even the hawkers are willing to move in, but the administration is doing nothing.”
Nawaz Khan, a member of the Maharashtra Hawkers Union, said, “We had marked around 183 hawker plazas in the city. One of them in Andheri was even sanctioned for 481 hawkers and hawkers paid Rs 65 for its development. But it has been lying vacant for the past eight to 10 years. The BMC doesn’t want to use any of the available options to accommodate us.”
BG Pawar, the deputy municipal commissioner, said, “There are reservations in the Development Plan for markets but the BMC cannot afford to acquire these plots at market value. With proper planning, the hawkers can be organised on the streets themselves.”