The civic authorities seem to have successfully pitched residents against hawkers. While residents claim hawkers have taken over their streets, hawkers are of the opinion that proper planning will help hawkers without inconveniencing residents.
Hawkers have claimed the civic authorities do not want to give them licences, as allowing hawkers to sell their wares illegally gives them access to money paid as ‘fine’ by hawkers on a regular basis.
Speaking to HT, Shashank Rao, leader of the Mumbai Hawkers Union, said taking away the rights of hawkers in natural markets is not going to solve problems faced by pedestrians. Some excerpts:
What are your thoughts on the hawking zones marked by the BMC?
The BMC authorities have violated the Supreme Court’s order, and not considered the hawkers while marking the pitches. The BMC hasn’t even released the list for us to study.
What, in your opinion, would be an alternative to these hawking zones?
If the directives of the Supreme Court are followed, most of the issues will be solved.
Various hawker unions have been filing court cases and complaints against the civic body. How does that help?
Recently in Chembur, hawkers were evicted. We knocked the doors of the court, and the Bombay high court gave a decision in our favour. So court cases yield good results at times and we have got relief by approaching the court. Whenever authorities turn a deaf ear to our problems, we will knock on the doors of the court.
Once the legal licences are given, do you think it will help the revenue generation of the BMC?
Revenue will be generated when the licences are issued. But I am of the firm belief that there is no will on part of civic officials to let go of the huge amount of illegal money that comes their way. They will find all possible ways of deferring the giving away of the licences.
What about the complaints from citizens that hawkers are encroaching on space meant for pedestrians, dirtying the pavements?
Yes, the problem does exist and we have been spreading messages to our members to control it. But even the administration has to take care of that by providing better infrastructure.