It promised to regulate hawking and even carried out a survey last year, but the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) still does not know the exact number of hawkers in Mumbai.
In July 2014, the civic body had carried out a week-long hawkers’ registration drive and distributed 1.2 lakh forms.
But within a few days of starting the survey, many zones saw new hawkers setting up small stalls, trying to get themselves registered. And with many existing hawkers being left out, complaints of officials-hawkers nexus started to pour in.
According to the BMC records, more than 4,000 hawkers complained about not being included in the survey. However, none of the complaints were considered by the administration.
Hawker unions said the number was much higher.
The civic body has received 99,435 responses, but it believes only 70,000 to 80,000 will qualify after the scrutiny. Hence, it has marked hawking zones for 70,000 vendors.
Hawker unions are upset by the move. “The BMC set up the ward vending committee according to Street Vendors Act, 2014, then why isn’t it marking hawking pitches according to the Act as well. Many hawkers could not fill the form as there were a lot of bogus applications, and the real ones were not considered,” said Haider Imam, general secretary of the hawker union of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC).
According to the Act, the BMC is required to make hawking space for at least 2.5% of the population, which is at least 3 lakh hawkers.
Hence, what this means is that, despite the survey, the BMC is still not sure about the number of street vendors and the threat of illegal hawkers mushrooming still looms over the city.
Activists and experts feel lack of foresight and not providing proper hawking space will lead the BMC down the same old path where it will have to tackle encroachments, conduct eviction drives and deal with protesting citizens.
“Had the BMC though ahead, it would have made proper provisions for vendors and hawking zones in the city’s development plan. Around 2 lakh of the population has been left out from the city’s plan for the next 20 years,” said Aravind Unni from YUVA.