BMC, police act 34 times to get rid of 3 vada pav stalls, but they are still standing

A south Mumbai-based activist has filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court against Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte and others for not taking permanent action against a vada pav vendor in Fort. The BMC and the police have, however, taken action against the vendor 34 times, following the activist’s complaint.

The vada pav stall outside Mumbai University’s Fort campus run by the president of the area’s hawkers union. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

Sanjay Gurav, a 36-year-old resident of Bora Bazaar Street who had conceived the Shiv Sena-run chain, Shiv Vada Pav, filed the petition (copy with MiD DAY) last week. He has beseeched the court to direct Kunte to initiate action against the BMC officials that have failed in shutting down the vendor’s three stalls, and to crack down on illegal hawkers and food vendors in the locality.

The snacks stalls in question are on the footpath outside Mumbai University’s Fort campus. They are run by one Dilip Surodkar, president of Mumbai Hawkers Union’s Fort wing and district president of the Nationalist Congress Party’s labour cell.

34 and counting
In 2011, in a Right To Information reply filed by the BMC, Gurav got to know that Surodkar did not have a licence, and he has since been complaining against him. On the basis of his complaints, BMC fined Surodkar 22 times. Gurav then brought up the issue during the collector’s and civic commissioner’s Lokshahi Din on which public authorities redress citizens’ grievances. The collector and the commissioner directed the BMC and the Mumbai police, respectively, to declare the accused hawker as a ‘habitual offender’.

The Azad Maidan police, then, charged him 12 times under appropriate provisions of the law, but the stalls have braved all the warnings and penal actions. Sources said the Mumbai University administration has also complained against the stalls, that are being operated within 100 metres of the university premises, which is a violation of a Supreme Court order. On November 28, 2011 Gurav lodged a complaint with the Azad Maidan police that he was getting dire threats from the hawker, who wanted him to let the matter go.

The BMC’s tardy manner of dealing with the issue finally prompted him to file a writ petition against BMC chief Kunte and Devidas Shirsagar, assistant municipal commissioner (AMC) of A ward (Fort). The next hearing on the petition is on January 17. “The BMC and the police are not taking serious action against the vendor as he is a very powerful man. He is violating several BMC norms and Supreme Court directions. I attended the collectors and municipal commissioner’s Lokshahi Din, but nothing came of it. So I decided to file the petition against BMC officials,” said Gurav. BMC Commissioner Sitaram Kunte said, “I will look into the matter. I will comment after getting the details.”

The other side
The owner of the stalls, Surodkar, said, “I am not aware of Gurav’s petition. I am running the vada pav stalls here for the past 40 years. I have the licence in my wife’s name. I am doing nothing illegal. There are 4,000 hawkers in Fort area, but Gurav complains against the hawkers who do not give him extortion money. There are several petitions pending against him in the high court. Also, the law regarding stalls within 100 metres of an edicational institute is not in effect as of now. The Supreme Court has cancelled that order.” 

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