Walkways take 1 step forward, 2 steps backUpdated: Feb 12, 2020 00:50 IST
They came, acted and went away, only for the footpaths to be encroached upon again – this is how one could define the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) action after Hindustan Times’ audit of 20 walkways across the city.
HT had, in a series starting February 3, reported on 20 locations in the island city, western and eastern suburbs where footpaths were in a pathetic condition and unsafe for walking for senior citizens, pregnant women etc. HT had found that in a majority of cases, illegal hawkers and encroachment by two-wheelers ate into the space meant for pedestrians. After HT’s reports, the BMC took action at five locations – Bandra East station, Oberoi Mall in Goregaon East, Parel station, near Phoenix Mills and Senapati Bapat Marg near Kamala Mills – and freed the footpath of hawkers and vehicles. However, a visit to these spots on Tuesday showed that both the hawkers and vehicles had reclaimed the spaces. Beyond these locations, the civic body failed to take action even in its backyard. HT had, in its report dated February 8, highlighted how bikes were parked on the footpath next to the BMC headquarters at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT). The path continue to remain encroached upon.
Experts say the problem, which has been consistent for years, will require long-term solutions. Nikhil Desai, civic activist and member of the BMC’s town-vending committee which is dealing with hawking in the city, said, “There are several problems when it comes to freeing our footpaths of encroachments. One is the menace of parking of vehicles, which can be tackled by installing bollards to ensure vehicles do not enter the footpaths. There should be designated spots for hawkers. Hawking spots should not be marked on footpaths, irrespective of their width. Footpaths are primarily for pedestrians, and need to be kept free of obstacles.”
Desai said staff crunch is a major hurdle in taking repeated action against hawkers. “For 10 wards in my area, there are only two BMC vehicles and not more than 10 staff members,” he said.
Ashok Khairnar, assistant commissioner of H-East ward of BMC, which includes Banda East, said, “Taking action against hawking is a continuous process and we have deployed our vehicles for it.”
Swapnaja Kshirsagar of F South ward that handles Parel station area said, “We are taking action against illegal hawking continuously. Now, that you have pointed out, I will ask my staff to take action again. Also, we are in the process of marking hawking spots in our ward. Once they are marked, all licensed hawkers will be shifted there.”
Sharad Ughade, assistant municipal commissioner of G South ward, which covers Phoenix Mills and Kamala Mills, and Devidas Kshirsagar from P South Ward, which includes Oberoi Mall in Goregaon East, were not available for comments.