Hawkers thrive by filling BMC coffers
The civic body’s efforts to keep the city hawker-free appear dubious as approximately 18,000 unlicenced hawkers continue to thrive on Mumbai’s streets, most of whom return to business soon after being fined.mumbai Updated: Sep 09, 2012 00:51 IST
The civic body’s efforts to keep the city hawker-free appear dubious as approximately 18,000 unlicenced hawkers continue to thrive on Mumbai’s streets, most of whom return to business soon after being fined.
While civic officials claim that evicting unlicenced hawkers permanently is difficult, locals claim a nexus between ward officers and illegal hawkers is responsible for this rising menace.
According to data obtained in response to an RTI query filed by Aftab Siddiqui, a Bandra-based activist, the number of illegal hawkers across the city has shot up in the last six months despite the intervention of every ward’s encroachment removal department and the formation of special squads by the police.
In fact, across the 24 municipal wards, the number of illegal hawkers was around 14,792 in February, which rose to 18,466 in May. This number also includes hawkers who were driven out but returned to the streets.
“It is difficult to find a permanent solution for illegal hawkers because they return even after being fined,” said Mohan Adtani, additional municipal commissioner. “We have issued a circular asking Advanced Locality Managements to help the civic body deal with hawkers.”
According to the data, the upscale south Mumbai area, including sections of Cuffe Parade, Colaba and Nariman Point had the most number of illegal hawkers over a period of six months since February, while parts of Chembur and Govandi accounted for the fewest illegal hawkers who were fined.
“The fines collected by the ward runs into lakhs of rupees every month, which could be a reason for this nexus,” said Siddiqui. “There aren't enough eviction vans to drive hawkers out. In some cases, they continue to sell their goods even in the presence of vans,” she said. In a span of just six months, the body has collected Rs 1.86 crore in fines from unlicenced hawkers.
Other activists say another factor for the alarming number of illegal hawkers is the threats citizens have to endure for being whistleblowers. “Very often, these hawkers physically assault and threaten citizens who raise an objection. In such cases, the ward officials are not very supportive of the citizens,” said Atul Vora, a Kandivli-based activist who was beaten up by a group of hawkers last year when he asked them to leave a no-hawking zone.