MUMBAI: BMC chief Ajoy Mehta on Saturday gave the civic body one year to free the city’s footpaths of hawkers, illegal shops and other encroachments, but can the civic body realistically meet this deadline? Following an order to take action against commercial establishments with illegal extensions on footpaths, the hoteliers’ association demanded that illegal hawkers be included in the drive as well.
Mumbai has seen many such drives in the past, but most have died out thanks to a combination of political pressure and a lack of policies to back the action. The two policies that could provide legal aid to the BMC on clearing encroachments – the hawking policy based on the Street Vendors Act, 2014, and the BMC’s parking policy – are both awaiting approval from the state government.
The Street Vendors Act, which came into effect in May 2014, protects the rights of urban street vendors and regulates their activities. Despite the structure provided by this law, the BMC is yet to curb the chaos on the city’s pavements, though it claims to have taken action against hawkers who block pedestrian movement.
According to the Street Vendors Act, each city must prepare a scheme, based on its demands and needs, to implement the law. The BMC claims it has submitted such a scheme to the state government and is awaiting its approval.
“It is imperative that the policy is approved at the earliest, otherwise even after such drives, pavements will be claimed by illegal hawkers who block pedestrian movement,” wrote Nayana Kathpalia, convener of NAGAR, an organisation works on open spaces and related issues, in a letter to the civic chief.
Meanwhile, the parking policy aims to end haphazard parking on streets and footpaths by increasing parking fees in congested areas such as south Mumbai and introducing residential parking permits across the city.
The proposed permit system faced strident protests from residents of the island city, forcing the state to halt the policy in January and seek consensus among citizens. Following the delay, Mehta wrote to the urban development department two months ago to take a call on the policy. However, eight months after the policy was stalled, it remains in limbo.
“We have done our work on both polices and are now awaiting a response from the state government. Only once we can this can we streamline operations to curb illegal hawkers and the parking menace,” said a senior civic official, who did not wish to be named.