Validating the consistent claims of some street vendors that ‘rehri mafia’ is one of the main reasons behind the delay in setting-up of vending zones in the city, Ludhiana mayor Harcharan Singh Gohalwaria admitted that such a mafia is indeed active in the city.
Gohalwaria claimed that he wants to see early formation of vending zones across the city and a strict action against ‘rehri mafia.’
Talking to HT on Friday, Gohalwaria said, “Some persons are running this mafia in the city and they allow stationing of rehris by charging illegal fee from the vendors. Some of the officials concerned generally avoid action against the mafia, despite my repeated instructions that there should be no exploitation of any vendor,” he further claimed.
Sources said the annual illegal income of this mafia is around Rs 200 crore from the vendors who station their carts or tables at unauthorised sabzi mandis, city markets or major roads. “The mafia is allegedly being run in connivance with some officials and political leaders, including some councillors. Some councillors organise illegal ‘sabzi mandis’ in their respective wards,” the sources claimed.
“I had raised the issue before the former minister concerned that there is a need to set-up vending zones for the city vendors. If the vending zones are formed, they would not face any inconvenience. Moreover, there would be no inconvenience to commuters also as the vendors will run their business from designated areas,” said Gohalwaria.
“I had signed the work orders for survey of street vendors but I will check whether the survey has been started or not. It is the responsibility of the tehbazari wing officials to take required steps as per the law”, he added.
“We have requested several times to the MC authorities to set-up vending zones for us as we face harassment regularly. Our vendors have been complaining that they are forced to pay illegal fee to avoid MC’s action”, claimed Tiger Singh, president of Rehri Phari Federation, Ludhiana.
Under the Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending Act, 2014, the MC needs to set up vending zones in various areas of the city, where the vendors can legally sell their products such as vegetables, fruits and other products. As per the sources, there around 25,000 street vendors in the city.
“Despite the instructions of Supreme Court, the project for set-up of vending zones is delayed. It has been seen that the MC commissioner is generally transferred after a short time and it is one of the reasons behind the delay in this project. Besides, another major reason is the mafia that don’t want to see vending zones as their illegal business would come to halt,” claimed Tiger Singh.
However, MC commissioner, Jaskiran Singh said, “The project got delayed due to frequent transfer of commissioners. I have no information about any mafia. However, the MC has already hired a firm to conduct survey of vendors and it will be completed within the next 15 days.”