Since last November, every time an unlicenced hawker has tried to set up a stall on the footpath in Kandivli’s Mahavir Nagar, a group of around 50 residents have come down on him, compelling him to leave.
This ‘united in strength’ strategy adopted by members of the Mahavir Nagar Federation, which comprises more than 2,000 residents, has let residents keep hawkers away from their locality without help from civic and police officials.
“We were fed up with the daily arguments, eve-teasing and traffic congestions because of the street vendors,” said Sujata Chaturvedi from Mahavir Nagar Federation, who was among the 2,000 residents from the 25 buildings who stepped out of their homes on November 15, 2011, and cleared illegal hawkers from their locality.
“It was only when we protested on the street in big numbers that we drove the hawkers away,” said Chaturvedi.
As more and more unlicenced hawkers encroach upon what little space there is on the roads and footpaths, many Mumbaiites, tired of trying to get apathetic civic and police authorities to take action, are looking for solutions themselves. And in many cases, citizens’ efforts have met with success.
For the past two weeks, Gurmeet Singh, 26, a resident of Hilla Apartments in Bandra (west), has been parking his car on the road outside his building despite having a paid parking spot in his society. Like Singh, other residents living in the lane opposite Bandra Medical Stores on Hill Road have also been parking their vehicles on the road. These residents, all members of Hill Bagh Advanced Locality Management, are also bearing a monthly expense of Rs 21,000 to set up closed circuit television cameras, to pay two security guards and to beautify the pavements with potted plants. The purpose: to prevent unlicenced hawkers from flooding their lane.
“We have visited the ward office several times, but it’s no use. Residents used to find it tough to take the cars out and were attacked when they asked the hawkers to move,” said Singh, who was hit two weeks ago when his car brushed against a hawker. “There was no space to let an ambulance or fire engine come into the lane.”
On Linking Road, residents have cleared illegal hawkers from most stretches of the bustling shopping area through persistent follow-ups with authorities. “It is the responsibility of the authorities to take action so we kept the police and civic authorities on their toes by frequently calling and following up,” said Aftab Siddiqui, chairperson of Bandra’s 33rd Road ALM.
Seema Redkar, the civic body’s officer on special duty for ALMs, said citizens’ anti-encroachment movements succeed when residents tackle the fundamental problem — of locals buying from hawkers. “Hawkers can be evacuated only when the buyers, mostly locals, stop purchasing from them. So the battle in areas such as Hill Road and Dadar has been long-drawn as they are street markets,” said Redkar.