Residents of Mumbai joined forces on Sunday, to lodge their collective protest against the haphazard demarcation of hawking zones in the city. Alleging that the BMC had deliberately delayed the release of its list of proposed hawking zones because it feared opposition, residents said the BMC should develop more market spaces for the hawkers, instead of placing them in residential areas.
Hawkers also joined the protests and said they were eager to engage in dialogue with residents, and that they too were unhappy with the BMC’s move, as they were being taken away from their natural markets.
There were about seven protests in various parts of the island city and suburbs, organised by AGNI and other residents associations. The protest at Bandra alone saw around 600 people, whereas Andheri and Chembur each saw a turnout of more than 200 protesters. They complained that there were no footpaths on areas like Pali Hill for the proposed hawking zones.
At Chembur, residents made a human chain from Diamond Garden to Ambedkar Garden, holding placards. At Cuffe Parade, residents said they were protesting so that the BMC maintains a balance between the needs of hawkers and residents.
Shyama Kulkarni, the coordinator of H-West ward for AGNI, said, “Why mark hawking zones in a residential area? The BMC has not bothered to consult the residents before marking something that the administration claims is important to citizens. Why can’t the civic body develop markets and accommodate these hawkers?”
Imam Haider, general secretary of the All India Trade Union Committee, a hawkers’ union, said, “We needed to have a dialogue with the residents and we also needed to explain to them that we also oppose the BMC’s move, as the BMC needs to create natural markets rather than shift us to residential areas, which will surely not serve our purpose in any way.”
Residents of Dadar Parsi Colony and Hindu Colony marched from the police chowky at Five Gardens to the Matunga station. Groups such as the Matunga Youngsters Club held banners seeking support from residents to block the BMC’s motion to grant 214 hawking licences for Parsi Colony, 330 for Hindu Colony and 229 for Matunga (East).
Zenobia Unwalla, a resident of Parsi Colony, said, “I was born and brought up here. This place is close to each one of us. It belongs to all of us. We have always been a silent community. However, we cannot keep mum against such irresponsible decisions. We have strived hard to make this colony clean and green.”
Dinshaw Mehta of Parsi Colony said, “We are not against hawkers. We respect everyone’s right to livelihood. In fact, we even want the government to build a hawker mall. Our question is: why turn footpaths into hawker zones?”
Rajiv Mehta, resident of Hindu Colony who has made a page on a social media site called ‘Save your Neighbourhood from Hawkers,’ said, “We would move court if we are not heard by the municipal corporation.”
(With inputs from Aishwarya Iyer)