As a child, Maria D’Souza (60) never missed the Mount Mary fair.
Every September, she would travel from her Lower Parel home to the streets around Mount Mary Church to browse at the trinket stalls, take a ride on the giant wheel and attend local dances with her family during the eight-day festival.
D’Souza now lives on Mount Mary Road, and she dreads September — as do most of her neighbours.
What was once a source of the pride for the neighbourhood has now become a bugbear, they say.
“The crowds have multiplied each year, as have the hawkers blocking our roads. And still the BMC has made no attempt to regulate the stalls or even build toilets for the stall owners, so that they don’t ruin our streets and spread disease,” says D’Souza.
Tired of doing the rounds of the local ward office and then being disappointed, yet again, by the municipal corporation’s inaction, D’Souza and 249 others filed a writ petition with the Bombay High Court last week, holding the corporation accountable for the inconvenience and health hazards caused by the ever-rising number of hawkers blocking all approach roads to the church.
“The fair is a part of Bandra’s culture and has always been big event, looked forward to every year since I was a child,” says local resident Anjali Pai (27), a brand manager. “But these days we are forced to stay indoors for most of the festival because of the chaos on our streets. The BMC needs to do a much better job to ensure we are not inconvenienced.”
The BMC would not comment on the lack of infrastructure or the inaction against illegal hawkers. “We hold meetings with all stakeholders in the run-up to the fair,” said Deputy Municipal Commissioner Vikram Pawar. “We always get a positive response from citizens.”
But even citizens with a positive response say the municipal corporation needs to step up their game.
“There is overcrowding and the roads remain dirty for a few days after the fair, but people can put up with those inconveniences for a week,” said Aalameen Furniturewala (20), a college student who has grown up on Mount Mary Road. “We just feel that the BMC does need to be more strict now.”
Added Father Warner D’Souza, parish priest of Bandra’s Mount Carmel Church: “Today if Bandra suffers, it is because the BMC does not take the whole thing seriously, despite several meetings with residents and church members every year. The law is the only recourse, and the court should make sure that the BMC is penalised and forced to act.”