Illegal hawkers have always been a big problem for residents of the K-west ward, but the magnitude of the issue came to light when Mrinalini Joshi, 52, was attacked by a group of hawkers in 2008 after she complained to the civic body.
Citizens of the K-west ward, which includes the west of Vile Parle, Andheri and Jogeshwari, have undertaken several initiatives and vigil drives along with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to evict hawkers from their areas, but their efforts have so far met with little success. The reason, residents allege, is political patronage of the hawkers and the civic staff's soft-handed approach.
In the past one year, the BMC has conducted more than 50 hawker eviction drives in the ward and more than 2,500 hawkers have been collectively evicted, but the effect of the drives does not show in the streets of the K-west ward.
"Due to the BMC's lack of willingness and because of political interference, these drives didn't work," said Skimmy Gupta, a resident of Irla.
Active citizens' groups have taken up vigil and adopted pavements to discourage hawkers, but they have made no difference.
The hawkers deprive pedestrians of walking space, cause traffic congestion and eat into the businesses of the legal shopkeepers.
Local shopkeepers' associations tried to rid the area of its illegal hawkers by installing hidden CCTVs so that the hawkers could be identified and the BMC officials could be forced to take action against them. "But days after the cameras were installed, their cables were damaged by unidentified people," said a member of the Andheri Shopkeepers Association, on condition of anonymity.
The BMC claims there is no solution to the problem unless the proposed hawkers' policy, which demarcates hawking and non-hawking zones in the city, takes shape after which these spots will be kept free of hawkers through regular eviction drives and sufficient staff to regularly patrol the popular spots.